Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Early garlic and Chilean Guava

I've been getting a lot of work done over the last couple of days. Getting beds read and I have had to top up the soil wetter as I doubt we will be getting any rain soon and the ground has been getting quite water resistant lately.
Tomorrow I think I will take a drive into Mt Gambier but the next day I will get stuck into sowing the winter veg.

 Yesterday I was surprised to see that most of the beds of garlic are showing new shoots already. It is over a month early and I hope this is not a bad sign or something. Maybe the extra long growing year will have them getting huge, well, we'll see.

Usually I let the garlic beds sit without watering them until the rains bring them up but as they are shooting I will have to start watering them.

I put in a lot of garlic this year, not the half acre I wanted but still plenty for selling next summer.

Tomorrow I will have to pick the fruit on my Chilean Guava (Ugni molinae). It is ready and covered in fruit.
I will have enough this year to eat as well as collect seed. I usually sow the seed immediately to have young plants to sell but I will have to look up to see if the seed can be dried and kept for seed packets.

I love these tiny fruit ( they are only as big as peas) but they don't make it into the house as I eat them as I pick them.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Official start to Autumn, yay

Yay, it is the official start to autumn today. I know mother nature does not follow our calendar but it is cooler today and after tomorrows 27c we are in for a coolish week in the low 20s. I can almost allow myself to hope that we have seen the last of the hot days but we still have time for some more yet.

Yesterday I attended the first Hamilton market for the year. There were more people there than I expected and though I didn't bring a lot of fresh veg I sold a lot of seeds to people thinking of their autumn planting. I am glad I got off my behind the past couple of weeks to do a lot of packets of seed.

Here is half of my stall after most of my stuff has been sold. I really should remember that I have my camera at the start so I can take a good pick of my tables.

 Last week my Autumn crocus started shooting and now they are flowering away merrily. They always bring a nice splash of colour to the garden at this time of year when everything is looking dull.

I am starting to plant more flowers though the beds as they look great as well as feeding pollinating insects when not much else is flowering.
I have been planting multi use flowers that could also have potential in the future for sale as vase flowers.

I have a lot of beds empty right now waiting till Tuesday when the cooler weather starts for me to start sowing. I always look forward to this time of year when I am getting everything ready for winter crops.

I just have to choose what will get planted where, and what will miss out this year because I don't have enough bed space, that is the hard bit.

The long range weather forecast shows that we will probably get a warmer than average autumn with little rain and perhaps a late break.
It will mean more watering for longer but I will take that if the frosts are late and we don't get any more searing days. Well, I can always keep my fingers crossed.

I have been busy today harvesting spaghetti squash and Hamburg Parsley seed, as well as putting dried seed in containers and various other odd jobs. Another week and all the corn and the Small Sugar pumpkins can come in and be stored.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Leaky bath and Chinese yam

I noticed last night when I was watering the back block that one of the baths of water chestnuts seemed to have sprung a leak. The water level is way down and at the soil level. I'm glad it is not the bath with my lotus in it.

 After the water chestnuts are harvested I will have to empty the dirt out of it and redo the plug hole with more silicon.

They are growing well in the bath tubs so I hope I get better and bigger tubers than last season.

My Chinese yam is flowering away but there is no sign of the productions of stem tubers yet.
These plants are dioecious and mine (like most if not all in Australia) is male, so they re not able to pollinate themselves. This is a good thing as they can easily become weeds as they are, by dropping the stem tubers everywhere, without having fertile seeds as well.

If my plants don't produce stem tubers I will have to break apart the raised bed to get at the tubers when they die down in winter. It will be interesting to see how the tubers have developed especially as the soil they are in is a bit heavy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My new helper

Today was a busy day collecting and sorting seed. I had a helper along, my little wooden drawing model asked if she could come along so of course I said yes. I will never turn down a request from someone who wants to learn more about growing food.

After we got home I told her that if she wanted to come out with me again she would have to wear clothes, it would be embarrassing if the neighbours started talking about my little nude friend, think of all the perverts!!

 Here is little helper (I am going to have to think of a name for her) having a bath in a bowl of Florence Fennel seed. She really enjoyed it and asked to help a lot more with the seed sorting. It is nice to have someone to talk to about seeds.

Looking out over the garden, we checked on the Silver Edge pumpkins that are setting nicely, unlike last year when the plants never produced any female flowers.

 These pumpkins produce seed that is used for eating instead of the flesh. The seed has hulls on it but I grow it because it produces more seed than the hulless ones and it is not too hard to peel the large seeds.

Helping with the corn, careful you don't fall, you are only little after all and neck height for me is a mountain for you.

It's all good, she got down with a bit of help and pronounced the corn good enough to eat. Whew.

My little helper was very impressed with the tomatoes. Too bad she is far too small to lift any but the small ones.

I haven't had a good year for tomatoes but the smaller types are doing well.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Andean vegetable plans

This is an extention of one of my posts on a gardening and backyard plant breeding forum (http://alanbishop.proboards.com/) putting together my plans for my Andean vegetables for this year. I have added pictures and more text which wasn't in the original post

Oca - I only have a couple of dozen seedling plants, and another 7 from last year to start selecting from but since that is about 30 more than have been available in Australia up until now so I will have something new to introduce to my customers next year. I am just trying to get some choice for people here for now and then I will start selecting for myself and my interests. We have only had two colours in Aus up till now and one of those does not have enough heat tolerance to grow here well.
Although my originals flowered profusely last year I didn't get any seed and usually they don't flower much here.
I have stumbled on the perfect way to grow out the seedlings in the first year - pricking them out into pots and digging the pots into the ground in one of my covered veggie beds. Some of the young plants are almost as big as the outdoor plants from last year, and I will get a heap of bigger tubers than the mini tubers you usually get in the first year.

Achocha - I really don't like the taste and texture of these but I grow a few each year for seed in case anyone asks. Picture on the right

Ahipa - won't grow where I live so I have given up on it. The summers are too hot and intense.

Achira - I actually like these rhizomes though I don't eat them much as it is much easier to eat potatoes, lol. I will continue to grow it but have not collected seed from it so far. They are closely related to garden canna lilies.

Arracacha - I have been trying to drought stress my plants to produce seed but having no luck. My offsets take easily and I have never lost one but I have had no luck getting them to produce roots large enough to be edible. I now have them in a polytunnel to see if the more stable temps will help with that.

Maca - doesn't grow here well.

Potato - I am going to try growing a few more from true seed this year. I have difficulty getting seed to set here so I might have to try and buy some in.

Yacon - Can't get seeds from them but they grow well and I am happy with what I have. There is little chance I will be able to source other varieties.

Vegetable Amaranth - sells well at the markets since I have introduced it to my customers. I love it.

Yautia - grows well here and I am intending to find out if I can get my plants to flower. The amount of edible tuber to plant size is small which is disappointing. I now have enough plants that I can eat one this coming winter to try it out. After a bit of early trouble I can now get every offset to survive so I can build up numbers.

You can see here a picture of the edible rhizome which starts to grow as the plant produces offsets at the base.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Corn, lotus and more

With the hot weather continuing it is starting to wear a bit thin. As least with Feb nearly over you can see the end of it, just a few weeks and the weather should cool down. I am so looking forward to it, not only because I like cooler weather but because I will be able to put in a heap of beds of seed.
Most veg seed won't germinate in hot temps so I am itching to have some cool weather to start preparing the beds and sowing.

 Although my lotus plant is putting out lots of new leaves there is still no sign of the 'standing up' types of leaves.
The leaves on the water here don't look as big as they actually are but I am very pleased with the size. Maybe next year the plant will even be big enough to flower.

I love eating lotus root so I am hoping that this experiment teaches me how to grow enough to eat. If the tubers are big enough in the winter I might fill up all the baths with it and just use plastic tubs for the water chestnuts.

My Madagascar beans are doing very well this year and are covered in pods. Each pod only has 2 or 3 beans in it but they are very big beans and there are a lot of pods.
My sister gave me some other large type of bean last year but I mislaid them and by the time I found them again I didn't want to risk planting them in case it was too late. Hers died so these are a bit special and I don't want to risk them. If she doesn't want them back I will put them in next spring.

I have picked a few cobs of my coloured corn. The top picture is the flour corn and the bottom is sweet corn.
I am picking them a bit early, just as they are starting to mature as I can't risk the parrots finding them or I won't have any left one morning. Normally I would like them to dry a bit more on the plants.

The cobs are filled much better than I expected with the heat coming just as they were flowering. Of course many cobs were not pollinated and filled at all, but what I have checked is good.

The sweetcorn is very sweet and delicious. I picked one at milk stage and ate it as I was doing my morning inspection.

You can see that the cobs vary a bit in their size and shapes. I bought seed from a few places to make sure it is genetically diverse and to develop a type that will do well in my conditions so I needed a lot of diversity to start with.
It is exciting to see how they develop each year but I am not selecting at this time (except for the self selecting they are doing with some plants either dying or not producing in these conditions). I do like the look of the long cob in the sweetcorn pic though.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Harvest time is ramping up

I am busy at the moment harvesting seed from many plants. I have many buckets of seed pods to clean sitting out on the table under the back veranda - hamburg parsley, vivid choi, carrots, silverbeet and purple peacock broccoli, as well as some tomatoes. Well, that will give me something to do for the next few days when it will be too hot to do anything outside.

 I have two varieties of ground cherries but I am not going to grow 'Golden' any more as 'Aunt Molly' tastes so much better. This is Aunt molly pictured.

I have just crushed a heap of fruit and put them aside to ferment so I can get the seeds out of them.

The only thing I don't like about this ground cherries is that they seed all over the place, you only have to plant them once, and you will have seed from missed fruit coming up all over the garden for years to come. You have to be dilligent every year to pull them up as you see them or they will become a weed, not only in your garden, but for your neighbours too.

I have also put a container of wild currant tomatoes (Solanum pimpinellifolium) out to ferment for seed.

These tiny tomatoes are so sweet and tasty that if you don't eat sugar these would be the closest thing you would have to lollies. I pick a handful every time I go out watering that block and eat them as I go. They are very yummy.
The bushes are straggly but they look great covered with fruit. I think this is the perfect fruit for a kids garden.

Only one of my liquorice (or licorice) plants (Glycyrrhiza glabra) produced seed pods this year.
I have picked them then spent yesterday afternoon laboriously picking out the seeds from the prickly little pods. At least I have them all done now, but I will have to find a better way next year.

This winter I will be digging up the plants and I hope the roots are bigger than I expect them to be, and that they taste good.

The good thing about this plant is that propagation is easy, you just replant pieces of root.