Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Baby goat and what edibles to plant in shady places

Since I forgot to take the camera out today I thought I would share a couple of photos of my sisters baby goat.

 You will recall a couple of weeks ago me talking about my sisters doe having her kids under the house. Since the offspring of this goat tend to be flighty, nervous buggers my sister decided to take the female kid and hand feed it to try and make it friendlier.

Of course they had to bring it with them when they came to visit so I took a couple of pictures. The baby goats name is Sage.

This is my little niece feeding Sage.

With all the bad luck they have had with the offspring of that doe, I really hope this one turns out ok. The Doe 'Babette' is the most loving and highest milking goat I have ever seen so they need another female to take over just an case anything ever happened to her.

Edibles to plant in the shade

I often hear people say that their garden has a shady area that they can't grow vegetables in, because veggies need full sun as the books tell them.
That is mainly true in the Northern hemisphere but here where the summer sun will fry anything that shows its face many actually prefer a bit of shade, especially in the afternoon.

As many of you know by now, much of my veg are grown under shadecloth in the summer now but there are a heap of fruit and veg that will love the south side of your house, or between the fence and your house or shed. The shade should not be too deep but dappled or through the afternoon at least.
Here are a few I can think of right now.

Lettuce and most quick growing leafy veg: These prefer afternoon sun, especially lettuce which will go bitter if they get too hot.

Chilean Guava: This bush produces tiny, delicious berries and needs shade.

Alpine strawberries: a cool, moist spots suits these little clumpers perfectly.

Oca: a tuberous vegetable from South America

Yacon: Another tuberous vegetable from South America that produces sweet tubers that are eaten raw.

Cucumbers: Prefer afternoon sun as both the fruit and the plants fry easily.

Rhubarb: Loves a cool, moist spot with afternoon shade.

Hardy Kiwifruit: These vines will love a shady fence to grow on.

Hazelnuts: Prefer afternoon shade

Finger lime: Love dappled shade

American Pawpaw: An unusual fruit tree that prefers a bit of shade, especially when young.

Soft leaved herbs

Monday, October 20, 2014

Garlic again and why 'heirlooms' may not be right for you

Well, we are back to 'normal' today after the hectic but wonderful few days of my sisters family visiting. I love having them visit and we are always sorry that they can't stay longer but it does mean that I don't get any work done.

 This year I planted my garlic in three of my blocks just to test out a theory that my problems with the cloves shooting out the top of the mother plant before the plants die down is because they are too wet in the winter. It seems to be correct because the only ones this time which are doing it are the bed that was in the wettest part of the garden.
For some reason it doesn't seem to affect the quality of the whole bulbs when they die down, it just looks strange.
You might remember my wondering about it last year at this time.

After waiting a month and just about to reseed my kurrajong seeds are starting to germinate. I was getting a bit worried but I can see a few just about to pop above the soil.
I really should have planted a couple more beds but I have run out of room, all the beds are full now.
I did tell myself that I wasn't going to put as many different veggies in this spring but I just can't help myself.

I just look at my seeds and decide that I need to fill up the containers more so I plant and plant, I love planting as big a range as I can.

Why "heirlooms' may not be right for you

I hate the word 'Heirloom' as food gardeners use it. Think about what an heirloom is, it is something that is passed down from parents to children over generations. As soon as people elsewhere start planting them they are no longer Heirlooms. It is much better to call old varieties 'Heritage' varieties, which is what I call them.

So why may they not be right for you?
Heritage varieties are old varieties that have been so inbred that they have lost most of their genetic diversity, the diversity that allows living things to adapt to changing conditions. Many people complain that their 'Heirlooms' did very poorly and they will never grow them again, but then other will say that their 'Heirlooms' outdid all the new varieties in their garden.

The reason is that since these old heritage types were grown in a specific place, with a specific climate and soil for generations, all the while with any 'off' types being culled so they are all more or less clones, they don't have the diversity to adapt to other climates and soils etc. If your conditions are similar to what they were originally adapted for they should perform wonderfully, but the opposite is true if you live in a different climate.

If you want to only grow heritage vegetables you should put in the time to research where they originally come from and mostly plant those with similar needs to what your garden provides.

If you really want to grow heritage varieties from all areas you can try developing a landrace. A landrace (vegetable, fruit, flower or animal) is a variety that has been developed to suit a particular place, climate and other conditions. It is still the same variety but it has been grown and the best producers with the best genes for your area have been picked out and grown on.

Basically you can grow a bed of this variety, then collect seeds from those that thrive. Generally although I said that heritage varieties usually have little diversity, random mutations are happening all the time. Maybe you planted 10 plants of 'Aunt Rubys Green' tomato and they did so badly, and got so many diseases that only two plants survived, not great but lived to produce a couple of fruit. Obviously those two plants have just enough diversity to have genes that will cope to some extent in your garden.

Keep seeds from those plants and grow them next year. You will find that more of those ten plants will survive, and one might even do well. If you keep saving seeds from the best doers you will eventually have after a few years a landrace of 'Aunt Rubys Green' that does exceptionally well for you, but may still do badly for your friend in the next town. See what I am saying?

After saying what I have there are some heritage varieties of veg that do well in most gardens. These have been grown around the world for so long that they have had some diversity reintroduced, just enough to make them do well in most places. Some very popular 'Heirlooms'  like Black Russian tomato come to mind.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Quick update

Sorry I haven't posted. my sister and here family have been visiting for a few days. I will make my usual post tomorrow night.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jam competition and mixed mutterings

Today was the long awaited day when it was time to take in my entries for the Great Victorian Jam and Chutney challenge. I couldn't pass this one up because the prize money is good.
I made two jams - Hawaiian Sunrise (banana, pineapple and coconut jam) and rhubarb jam, a kohlrabi chutney and a sweet apple sauce. I am really only happy with the Hawaiian Sunrise jam but I am prepared to be surprised with the others. It is judged on Saturday Oct 25. Wish me well.

Just before starting on this post I had to go out and cover up as many frost tender seedlings as I could because they are predicting a severe frost tonight, just when all the melons, tomatoes and corn are coming up *sigh*. Luckily I had cut up my geo fabric roll into bed-sized lengths to put on some of the seedlings, and I am hoping that the shadecloth covers will also give a degree or two of protection. We will see.
I am pleasantly surprised every year when we get a late frost how the seedlings cope well with it. I suppose they can cope with a single frost but wouldn't cope with more than one in a row.
I got a babaco plant  in the mail yesterday but I can't put it outside because of the couple of cold nights this week. I bought it because we will have our new hothouse next winter. I have tried growing them before but just couldn't keep them alive through the winter.

Tomorrow I will be seeding my last empty beds so all that will need to be done for the next three months is weeding and watering. I will put in another bed or two of carrots, because you can never have enough carrots, as well as some celtuce since the earth mites polished off the last lot, and some beets. I must remember to keep a bed free for my bambara beans which will go in next month.

I noticed yesterday that the garlic is starting to put out scapes so at least I will have something interesting for the market. I won't have much else, just broad beans and seeds but at least I will have a presence there. It will be December before I will have full tables again.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Geo fabric as weedmat, and funny vegetable personality quiz

Today I received a 50 metre roll of 140gsm geo fabric. I have to tell you that I HATE weedmat, it is so hard to handle and frays everywhere.
A few weeks ago I bought a few metres of this geo fabric to see how it would go as weed mat. It is normally used to stop erosion on building sites, roadways and irrigation trenches. I is so nice to feel, almost like real fabric and lets air and water through much better than 'normal' weed mat.

It does let in a little more light but not much and mostly stops weed growth, and although it is just as light as weed mat it doesn't seem to blow around as much. I made some wire pegs to hold it down and they are going well. In a few months I will be able to judge whether it is good enough to put on most of my beds.

 A week or two ago I told you how I am having trouble keeping my hardy kiwi plants alive in the summer.
I ended up planting them next to my parents shadehouse and they have really taken off. They are looking better than I had hoped and growing so fast now that I will have to put up something for them to climb on in the next few days.

Now I just hope they survive the winter as this area gets waterlogged in winter and spring.

My bed of walking onions is taking off as well. They are so crowded and dividing so rampantly that I will have to put them into a bigger bed next year.
They are just starting to put out their second tier.

What is your fruit/vegetable personality
Choose your favourite superhero (or someone you most admire), this will show your personality type. Does the name of your choice start with:

A - You're an Asparagus. You pop up early when things need to be done, putting all your effort into it then burning out.
B - Broccoli. Your head is so full of ideas you feel like exploding.
C - Crabapple. People find it hard to like you until they get to know you better, but they always need to be careful not to antagonise you.
D - Daylily. You are bright and beautiful, always with a happy face and demeanor. 
E - Eggplant. Oh so funny, you always have people in tears of laughter. Keep it coming and you will be surrounded by friends, but you should still let them know if you have problems that are no laughing matter.
F - Finger lime. Exotic and interesting, you are full of surprises.
G - Grape. You are a social climber but be careful not to smother others on your way up. Give generously and people will help you up the ladder.
H - Horseradish. With a hot and fire personality people need to always be on their toes around you, but you area challenge that brings out the best (or worst) in people.
I - Iceberg lettuce. Mild mannered and cool headed, you are a great stabilising force for all the people around you.
J - Jaboticaba.  Wow, people think you are a plain Jane but watch their faces when you put your mind to a project. They never expected that!
K - Kohlrabi. You might be rough outside but you always have friends because you are so versitile, you can do almost anything.
L - lemon. With an acid tongue, you have to watch what you say at all times. Even so, your friends love you anyway.
M - Mangelwurzel. Big, and hairy (well you would be if you let yourself go), you are the hillbilly of vegetables. Always fun to be around and down to earth.
N - Nectarine. You are so sweet that people think they can take advantage of you. Just smile and let them think they can until you fulfil your plan.
O - Onion. Multi-layerd, no-one really ever knows what is going on inside your head, and you like it that way.
P - Pumpkin. Solid and reliable, you are always there when anyone needs you.
Q - Quince. You tend to leap to judgement but try to hold off before talking.
R - Radish. You have a quick mind and tend to rush things without thinking them through. 
S - Strawberry. So sweet, everyone loves you. 
T - Tomato.  You are a homebody, and know that the pretenders are never as good as those who put their heart into life.
U - Ugni. You like to keep to the shadows but have a lot to offer, if only people would ask. Try to let people know of your valuable skills, they are not mind readers.
V - Vanilla. People think you are a normal, everyday person but they don't know you at all. Climb those poles or trees and show off once in a while.
W - Watermelon.  You love people but try not to overwhelm people with your personality - you might get your juicyness all over them and they will have to leave to clean up.
X - Xanthosoma.  You are majestic and put it all out there, but no-one can see through that to get to your heart. 
Y - Yam. Your roots are your stabilising influence but it might be nice to ignore your past to grow in the future.
Z - Zucchini. You give so generously that you risk burning out. Make sure you have a long rest every year to rebuild your strength.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My planned open day, and 'The easiest veg to grow for black thumbs'

Today was a pretty busy day with having to water all my blocks, then after a conversation with a Facebook permaculture friend, deciding to have an open day on the 7th December. I have been thinking of doing it for a while and trying to decide on the best date to show my blocks at their best. So... I was busy putting a couple of hundred assorted plants in pots to sell on the day, as well as having some for the Hamilton Nursery.

Here are some of the plants I have been potting up. I will do a heap more tomorrow also. I might have to buy another carton of pots as well.

I really hope the plants sell well, it will be a good top up to the bank balance, especially as I am planning to replace my current polyhouse with a polycarbonate one in the Autumn next year. It will look much neater and I am getting sick of buying new plastic covers when they rip in the wind.

I will start advertising the open day soon.

My little American Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) seedlings are starting to come out now. Now that they are shooting out I will put them into individual pots. It is best to transplant these when they start coming into leaf.

I have a few of last years seedlings in larger pots but they are so slow growing when young that I will keep them in their pots for another year.

BTW, those are some pepino cuttings in the background, just ignore them.

All my beans are coming up today. These are some bush purple snake beans but I also have in climbing snake beans and blue speckled tepary beans.
I think I will sow another bed of snake beans tomorrow. They sell really well at markets and are stringless and tasty.
I have to keep wire netting on them at this stage to keep the starlings from pulling them up.

The easiest vegetables to grow

Here is a list of the most foolproof vegetables that almost anyone can grow, as long as you look after them and have the right climate. They are fairly pest and disease resistant and can cope with a bit of neglect. Of course, the better you look after them the better they will produce, but these will smile on you even if you have a black thumb.

Asparagus: These plants can cope with a bit of drought and have hardly any pests or problems in my garden. As long as you can keep them free of weeds they will hang on and produce spears for decades with little fuss.

Potatoes: Just throw them in the ground and forget about them, except for the occasional watering in summer they will just sit there until you go digging around for spuds. Tough and hearty plants that will get some pest problems but will usually outgrow them if you ignore it.

Garlic: is another plant that you can just set and forget. They are so tough that you can often find it growing where houses have been pulled down years ago.

Tomatoes: You might laugh but if you throw a rotten tomato on a bit of rough ground or in the vegetable patch you will have tough little plants popping up every year. Just give them the occasional water in summer and you are set. Cherry tomatoes seem to be the toughest.

Silverbeet: This is a tough plant that just keeps going and going. It will put up with all sorts of abuse.

Radishes: Although they get nibbled by a few pests they are so fast growing that they will often be ready to pick before they get over-run with weeds. Great for if you don't have a great attention span, and you don't weed often enough.

Rhubarb: Give this plant a moist but drained area (like near a tap or tank overflow) and it will sit there producing heaps of stems to cook, you rarely need to even check on it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Seedlings, and My 10 top tasting fruit and vegetables

There was nothing out of the ordinary to tell you about today, I just mowed the lawn and planted a few potted trees.

 As I went on my morning inspections I noticed that my first seedling oca that I grew last season have started to shoot from their tubers. I hope I get some good ones.
I have ordered some more seed but it hasn't arrived yet and I hope it hasn't been confiscated by customs. As long as I haven't got one of their 'love letters' I can still hope they will get here.

It will be the year for tomatoes I think. I am having self seeded seedlings popping up everywhere, and since I also have heaps in trays to plant out I am going to be over-run. Oh well, you can never have too many tomatoes.
A lot of the ones in trays I will pot up to sell through the nursery that takes my plants.
I am not getting as many melons popping up in the beds this year. I think it is because I didn't grow many last year so there were not many melons left to rot on the ground.

My top tasting fruits and vegetables to grow.

This list is entirely based on my own preferences, and other people will choose different plants. I am a sweet tooth who likes my food to be mild tasting and really doesn't like bitter foods so that is where I am coming from.
This list is based in fruit and veg that can be grown here so I have left out tropical fruits.

Melons:  I LOVE sweet melons. I am already salivating at the thought of picking ripe, juicy and sweet melons after Christmas. I can't give you the names of my favourites as there are so many, in fact I can probably only name a few that I don't like. I am growing about 40 varieties this year, well down on the over 50 varieties I grew a couple of years ago.
I suppose that if I have to name a few best ones that immediately come to mind I would have to go with Orangeglo watermelon, Crane, Nior Des Carmes and Sweet Passion. If you want to know more about just about any melon you can get go to my melon website:

Tomatoes:  Home grown tomatoes are so much better than shop bought ones that they are almost a different fruit. The sweetness as well as the versatility of tomatoes has to put them at the top of any list. There are so many great ones that it is hard to name the best but I will place Black Krim, Yellow Brandywine and Wild Current at the top of mine.

Scorzonera:  This little known vegetable tastes a lot like artichoke hearts, and is so weird looking ( it looks a bit like black sticks) that it always causes a sensation at markets. It is easy to cook and eat and is one of the few vegetables that I will eat anytime.

Golden Raspberries:  After you try Golden Raspberries you will not want to go back to the normal red ones again. They are really sweet and delicious.

Corn:  There are few people who wouldn't put freshly picked sweetcorn on their list of top ten veg.

Potatoes:  Although they are a bit bland in taste, I love potatoes because they are so versatile and filling. I can't imagine going more than a few meals without potatoes. They can be used in sweet as well as savoury dishes and you can really cause a stir with your family if you use a few different colours of spuds in a dish, especially a potato salad.

Muntries:  This hardly known little Australian native berry deserves a lot more attention. The plants grow in almost any soil and bear prolifically. They taste like dried apple and almost everyone likes them at first taste.

Kurrajong: Another native of Australia. The seeds are delicious fried or roasted like you would with nuts but I specially love the raw taproots of seedlings which taste like coconut.

Celtuce: Celtuce is a type of lettuce grown for its fat, juicy stems rather than its leaves. It is delicious and I have to eat the lot when I have some prepared.
I can't describe the taste as it is a taste all its own. I eat it raw (after peeling) but you can also add it to stir fries.

Amaranth:  I don't eat a lot of leafy veg but I do like amaranth as it is mild in taste and not bitter. It tastes like a cross between artichoke hearts and silverbeet but without the silverbeet bitterness. It is also easy and fast to grow.

I could add some other fruit and veg like yacon, strawberries, brodiaea and snow peas and it was a bit of a struggle to choose what to put in the top ten. Maybe I should have made it a top 20, or even a top 30, lol.