Monday, February 20, 2017

Heat tolerant oca and bush snake beans

I have a problem. After my successful open weekend followed by two markets I have just about run out of seed. I know it is a good position to be in but I am embarrassed by the thought that I will have to buy in seed to put in packets for the markets in the next couple of months. The trouble is that the seed I buy in will be the sort of seed my customers can buy on heritage seed seller websites and nothing really different like what they are used to seeing on my stall. Oh well, there is not much I can do about it.
I will definitely have to plan better in the future.

 My bush snake beans are bearing very well. I have isolated ten plants for fresh picking so I can measure just how much my customers should be able to harvest all season per square metre.

So far I have picked a kilo off those few plants since they started flowering. It may not sound like much but they are small plants and you don't need many beans for a meal so they are doing well. I am very interested in what the total amount of green beans off them will add up to at the end.

I am finally seeing a few more heat tolerant oca plants this year. It has helped that the summer has gone back to normal and we are not getting weeks on end of scorching temps.

If I can select a couple of heat tolerant ones each year that produce well it won't be long till people will be able to plant a few colours in their gardens outside with few worries. I think I will plant a lot more seeds next spring and plant them all without shadecloth and see just how many I can get to grow.

I have found that to beat the stem rot that oca is prone to in hot weather you have to mulch them deeply with straw. It keeps them dormant for a bit longer in spring but that is a good thing as the later you plant them in spring the healthier the plants tend to be.

With the total failure of my ulluco crop I will be concentrating more on oca probably.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Peanuts, vivid choi, and other things

After a few more hot days it looks like we are in for some pleasant summer weather for the next week which I am looking forward to. It might even be cool enough to get some brassica seedlings planted out. It will be good to get back to work after my open weekend, a few hot days and a visit to Portland to get my dental check up.

 I planted a dozen peanut plants in December. It was too late but the weather wasn't warm enough before that and I didn't want to risk keeping them til next spring.
Unfortunately a rabbit has got a taste for them and munched the tops out of all of them so I think I will not get any peanuts anyway. This is all that is left of the plants.

This is the fourth generation of my Vivid Choi project. The leaves of this vegetable are very strong mustard tasting but the roots are mild so I am trying to select for bigger roots.

It is slowly working but I am losing the colours in the roots unfortunately. The bunched tops are because rabbits ate them off while they were small and before they became too strong in flavour.

Yesterday I dug up a small bed, selected the best roots and replanted for them to flower.

I put a few 'Tiny Tim' tomatoes in this year for some reason. The flavour of these is ok but nothing special, it is the tiny, bushy growth habit that is the interesting part.
These are perfect for anyone who does not have a garden and has to grow everything in pots. These tomatoes bear like crazy and look spectacular when covered in ripe fruit.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Open day and saving seed from cucurbits

I am so sorry it has been so long since I updated my blog. I have to blame my sister who gets on my back when I am a bit behind, lol.

My open weekend was a big success. Almost all the people I expected to come did, nearly 100 people. Great for living in such a tiny town I think.
People came from far away like Ballarat, Narracourte and Warrnambool as well as closer towns. Thank you everyone who made the effort.

I think everyone enjoyed themselves and the weather was perfect. I sold lots of seeds and the coffee van was kept busy.

Today was the busier day and I am hoarse from all the talking. I am exhausted and looking forward to bed tonight.

There is only so much I can say about the open day so after I got home I decided to get into taking the seeds out of some 'Mini White' cucumbers that I had been meaning to get to.

It is easier to save seeds from all cucurbits by fermenting them. All you do is wait till the fruits are fully mature with tough, dark skins and even with some soft spots, then cut them in half and scoop out the seeds.
Place the seeds in a bowl and add a little bit of water if there is not much juice.

Stir them every day for about 3-4 days until there is a light foam of mould on the top. If there is a solid layer of mould on the top you should stir them more often.

Then add water to the bowl or tub and pour out the floating crap. The good seeds will sink to the bottom so they are pretty easy to separate. You will need to add water and pour off the rubbish a few times till the seeds are clean, then strain and lay them on a plate or tray in a single layer to dry for at least two weeks, or until the seeds snap when you try to bend them.

Sometimes this process can be smelly. especially with cucumbers so you might need to do this outside or in your garage, or some other spot where the smell is not going to be a problem.

You can easily save seed from melons, cucumbers, pumpkins as well as members of the tomato family this way.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Open day, cucumbers, and zinnias

Well, everything is looking fine for my open weekend on the 11th and 12th. The coffee van I had booked pulled out so people will just have to be happy with cold drinks but except for all the empty beds I should have quite a bit to show people.

My hand pollinating has finished now as the plants have all the fruit on them they can handle and all new fruits are aborting. Some melons I have not been able to get any hand pollinated fruits on should make a new flush of flowers later so I will get another chance at them. I started getting quite a few hand pollinated fruits set but many of them suddenly died off so I obviously didn't get enough pollen onto them.

 I keep trying 'Little Potato' cucumber but every year they die off with a disease after only making a couple of fruits. I am hoping that if I keep persisting that I will get some harder plants surviving but it hasn't happened so far. I hope their genetic pool is not to narrow.

I grow these for something different even though they are nothing special in taste, nice but a bit too mild for my mother who is mycucumber taste tester.

As you know I have been growing a few flowers for seed and I am really liking growing zinnias. I don't know why they are not more popular. They come in a huge range of colours and are long lasting in vases without dropping pollen everywhere.
I think I have mentioned them in my blog on another post and I will grow some other varieties next spring.
Flowers will never be more than just a small interest but they are something pretty in among the veggies.

I planted a row of portulacas in my parents garden. Here is a few metres of them.
They are so pretty and love the heat but I won't be growing them for seed, it is so difficult to harvest. I think they will self seed nicely for next year though.

I think I will keep my flower growing to zinnias, bearded iris, gladiolus, nasturtiums and snapdragons.

I must also tell you that I was very excited to receive a few precious Mashua seeds (Tropaeolum tuberosum). This is a type of nasturtium that produces edible tubers.
Most people don't like the taste but I have been keen to try them anyway.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

With a couple of cool days I started planting out some of my trays of brassicas, tomorrow should be only 23 degrees too so they should survive though I will water them again anyway.
I picked my first cob of corn today, Painted Mountain which was very colourful. The corn is not suffering nearly as much as it was last year in the heat and drought, some are not even under irrigation and still ok so far.

I picked the first Giant tomatillo (Plaza Latina) today. This one was just for taking a photo of, I leave the others for seed a bit longer to let the seed mature better.

This variety does not bear as well as the yellow ones I showed you on the last post but they are spectacular in size. They work well in stir fries or salsa as they are not as sweet as the yellow, but a bit tart, and can be used as you would use capsicums.

The dwarf red snake beans are bearing well. They plants are still a bit small but they haven't let that stop them. I like this variety as they bear at the top of the plant which makes picking easy.

These are a really nice green been with no strings but you have to be careful not to over cook them, just a minute or two in a steamer or stir fry.

The cooler summer means that the scarlet runner beans are setting pods already. Usually they are at least another month off.

Scarlet runners produce large pods that are great to eat while they are still firm and snap easily, or wait till they are ripe and use as a dry bean. The dry beans must be cooked well like many other types of beans that should not be eaten undercooked. Don't let that put you off though as they are very nutritious like all beans.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bits and pieces

I am just patiently waiting for a few days of cooler weather before planting out a few trays of autumn/winter seedling veggies - brassicas, aquilegias, violas and stuff. With the temps in the low thirties it is just a bit hot for transplanting but next week might be right.

Apart from the hand pollinating of the melons and irrigating twice a week I don't have a lot to do except a bit of weeding. Summer tends to consist of mainly sitting indoors in the heat and watering in the evening but this year we have had milder weather that I am really enjoying.

 I don't have many cucumbers in as the spring was far too cold but I managed to get a couple of plants of both mini white cucumbers (pictured) and small potato cucumbers going.
The mini whites are very sweet and my mother loves them.

The small potato cukes are suffering again with the heat and spider mites. They have to be the worst cukes for pest and disease problems but I am going to keep growing them and hopefully select for better toughness.

I know I have mentioned the 'Amarilla' tomatillos some posts ago but now they are in full ripening mode I am really liking them. The fruits are bigger than I expected and very sweet. I got my refractometer out and they tested at a surprising 9 brix.
The problems with this variety are that the fruits are loved by slugs, snails and some sort of worm/caterpillar, and the branches get so heavy with fruit that they break off easily, oh, and the fruits contain very few seeds.

They are so sweet that I doubt they are the best for salsa but would go perfectly in fruit salads or jam.

I decided to grow a couple of 'Tiny Tim' tomatoes this year even though I am not a great fan of the taste and bush but many people only have a tiny garden or balcony to grow things in pots and these do fit the bill.

The plants do look good when covered with fruit, I have to give them that, but the taste is a let down and the fruit tends to be bunched in the centre of the plant which makes it a pain to harvest as you knock off the green fruits when trying to find and pick the ripe ones.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Well, there goes my seed drying shed

After losing a couple of fillings in the last couple of weeks I decided to go to the dentist to see what is going on. I suppose I have had it too good lately and needed a bit of bad news :(

Apparently my mouth is a catastrophe waiting to happen with one tooth needing to be pulled and a couple of fillings replaced immediately. I have to find a couple of thousand dollars in the next two weeks for the first appointment with the rest of the work (most of my ancient fillings have a lot of decay under them) and another four thousand dollars done over the next two years as I can afford it.

At least this dentist, who I haven't been to before, is very thorough and explains everything that has to be done and what will happen if it doesn't.

There is no way I am going to be able to afford to finish building my seed drying shed for at least another year now. I am going to struggle to find the money just for this dental work.

If you have been ready my blog over the past couple of months you may remember that I started a trial of bush bean varieties to see which ones would cope with our hot summers.
I did lose a couple of varieties to rabbits but the experiment itself is going well. All the heat sensitive ones have died now and I have five varieties left that are doing well and bearing pods. I will list them next post but two that I do remember are 'African Premier', a dry bean,  and 'Devil Fin Precoce' a green bean with pretty striped pods.

I have learned a lesson with my mauka - don't fertilise it!!

Last year these plants did very well without fertiliser all season but I planted them all into fertilised soil this spring and now most of them have collapsed. I can't think of any other reason for the collapse.

Luckily a few stems of most of them are coming back but I suspect that I will get a VERY poor harvest. Ah well, live and learn.