Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hosta and garlic bulbils

Sorry for not updating this blog for a few days. With the nice weather we have been having lately I have been out till dark working and I just don't want to bother updating when I get in tired. I might have to start doing it when I come in for a break during the day.

 I have bought a few hosta plants to see if they are worth growing as a vegetable. I am impressed with my first taste today. The shoot was very tender and tasted like a cross between green bean and asparagus.
You should pick the shoots when they are young and still furled because they go a bit bitter when they are more mature. I think they will be nice in a leafy green salad.

Apparently they can also be cooked. When I have a few spare shoots (the plants are still small) I will try them steamed with my other vegetables.
I have noticed that where I grew chufa last year there are a few shoots coming up from tubers that were left in the ground. I was under the impression that they don't survive winters but that must be for places with harsh winters because I already have a half dozen up.

I will have to keep an eye on that because even though they don't flower and aren't as much of a weed as nutgrass, they could still be a potential problem if not controlled. I will keep you informed.

All that I have read online and in books about garlic bulbils is that they don't start to produce cloves for two or three years but these Monaro Purple bulbils that I threw in a tub in the autumn are producing cloves already.
Of course the ones that are crowded where I just threw the head in the ground only have the outside ones big enough to do this but the individual ones are bigger.

Just another reason to love this variety. With this advantage I will be able to build up my stocks quickly.

Sorry, no article today, I am just too tired and I have a meeting to get ready for.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Garlic again, mouse melons, and why you should grow kohlrabi

After a bit of searching I finally found the term for my top sprouting garlic. It is called 'Witch Brooming'. Now that I know the term I can find lots of discussion on it. Most sites say that it is caused by low temperatures in storage but my experiments show that mine is caused by getting too wet in winter. At least I know what it is now and that it is quite common, and some varieties, like my 'Monaro Purple' are especially prone to it.

After the Hamilton market I popped over to the Gray St fair to see how my jams went in the competition. I didn't win anything but was amazed at how great the fair was. It was much bigger than I imagined for a small school in a small town and there was so much going on. They did a marvelous job.

 My mouse melons (Melothria scabra, also called Mexican sour gherkin) are sprouting everywhere. I love these little cucumbers and everyone who tastes them also like them.
They are slow to germinate and start growing which is why I prefer to let them self seed rather than sow them in pots, but when they get to a certain size they really take off and are very productive.

My garlic is not far from being ready to harvest because of the early hot weather. This hasn't given them enough time to grow to a good size and all the varieties are less than half their normal size. It is a bit disappointing but hopefully next year will be better.

Why you should grow kohlrabi

I love kohlrabi, it has to be one of the most useful veg you can grow.
Not only is it easy to grow but the taste is mild and most people like it. It tastes a bit like broccoli.

It can be eaten raw or cooked. To eat raw just peel and either slice very thin and sprinkle with salt, or grate and use instead of cabbage in a kohlslaw.

Cooked it can be roasted, boiled or steamed just like potatoes or any other solid vegetable, or you can pickle it or make it into many other preserves.

I like to sow the seeds in mid spring but I also put some in through summer for continuous cropping. It needs a well manured soil like other brassicas but seems to cope with most soils and conditions. Keep up the water in dry times and pick when the 'bulbs' are fist sized or a little bigger.
When they put up their thick flower stems these can also be peeled and eaten, they are mild and tender.

The variety I grow 'Gigante' will grow much bigger without going woody and my market customers like it, but because of the size it does take longer to grow. You can also buy seeds of a nice purple one in the shops.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Todays stuff and 'edimentals for your garden'

I'm already sick of this unusually hot weather and it isn't even summer yet. I have had to start watering every two days now rather than twice a week as everything is drying out so fast. At least the weather means that everything is growing well and the earth mite seem to have left for the summer.

 I was going to plant my chufa in Novenber this year but as the weather was so warm I planted them three weeks ago and they are starting to pop up now.
I grew chufa for the first time last summer and I really liked the taste so I am growing two beds this year. They produce so well that I only need two beds for seed and for myself. If I was confident of being able to sell them as produce I would grow more but I think that might take another year or so to convince my customers.

My white alpine strawberry bed is also showing life. They are even ripening their fruits. I love the taste of white alpines but it is a pity they are too soft to take to market. Oh well, I will just have to eat them all myself. What a hardship, lol.

It has been a month now since I started trying geo mat as weedmat and I am very pleased with it so far.
Although it lets in a little light it is not enough to let germinated weeds seeds get a start so I am happy with its performance.
It is not so great with strong weeds like running grasses (couch etc) but that just means that I have to have my beds well prepared before laying it down.

It is so nice to work with that I will never go back to 'normal' weed mat.

Edimentals for your garden

An 'edimental' is an Edible Ornamental. These are plants that people usually grow for flowers or other ornamental uses, and usually gardeners don't know they are edible.

Here is a list that I am growing. If you search for edible flowers you will find more on Google.

  • Daylily: Both the open flowers and unopened flower buds are edible raw and in stir fries. The flower petals are surprisingly sweet.
  • Hosta: The still curled new leaves are edible raw or cooked, especially fried.
  • Brodiaea: The bulbs are edible raw and cooked
  • Viola: Viola and pansy flowers look great in salads
  • Pineapple guava: The flower sepals are edible and many people don't know how great the fruit is.
  • Kangaroo paw: The fleshy roots can be cooked and eaten. They are a bit fibrous but certainly edible.
  • Canna lily: As with the kangaroo paw.
  • Jockeys cap lily: The bulbs can be eaten cooked only
  • Fuschia: The ripe fruits can be made into jams but are not outstanding fresh.
  • Dahlia: The tubers of dahlias are edible but some are better than others. Some can be bitter.

Always keep in mind that some garden plants, especially bulbs are very poisonous so don't experiment with plants you don't know.

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.