Sunday, December 9, 2018

Poor little peanuts, but they are trying

I know, I go on about the weather a lot but at this time of year when my planting is done most of my is weeding, and I am sure that would be even more boring.
Summer has finally arrived and over the last week we had two 38 C days. A bit too hot for doing anything useful but at least it was great for jump starting all the summer veggies that have refused to grow due to the cold nights.

My poor little peanuts are valiantly flowering even though they are still so tiny. They have not grown during the last month so I suppose they just think it is time. I am hoping with the warmer weather and a bit of fertiliser they will grow no and produce a crop. Some plants stop growing once they start flowering, I hope these don't.

With the potatoes still small I had to cover as many of them as I could during those scorching days with scraps of shadecloth that I had lying around.

I didn't really have enough for all of them so I just did the tetraploids as the diploids just laugh at the heat and I wasn't worried about those so much.

I did end up with some burning, and lost some of the smaller seedlings though. They just couldn't take it.

I started off with around 1000 seedlings this year but with the cold weather, bugs, fungal diseases, and just plain unthriftiness I have already lost most of them. I expected that and as long as I am left with the toughest couple of hundred or so I will be happy.

You can see how sparse the beds are beginning to look now but that does give the surviving ones more room to grow.
This is about half the potato growing area and the other half is looking a bit more filled though.

I am beginning to regret growing the spuds on the poorest, sandiest soil I have cleared as the lack of organic matter in the soil means it dries out so much faster and gets hot. 
Well, at least it is weeding out the tenderest ones. next year I have a much more fertile spot lined up for them. 

The Story of Potato Seedling D-154, week 12

This little potato seedling is springing away, and being a diploid the hot days last week didn't phase it.
It has lovely purple/blue flowers but the plant is rather sparse and open. I hope that doesn't mean it has long stolons.

It is still 6 weeks before I can see what sort of tubers it will produce but I am getting impatient already.

Potatoes from true seed take twice as long as those planted from tubers to produce but I have already harvested a couple of other varieties that were planted from tubers only 9 weeks ago. I won't know much about this ones growing season until next years crop, assuming it is good enough to keep for next year.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Triteleia, pumpkins and potatoes, of course.

 After a nearby party last night with loud music and illegal fireworks kept me up till 3am, and then getting up to start work at 5am I was in no mood and too tired to do much work today. Gave them a roasting on FB and got a roasting back. Seems like few people have respect for their neighbours now.
The fireworks spooked the next door dog who fought his way through two fences to get out (the neighbours were out for the night) so I had to go out in my nightie to find him and bring him back before he got hit by a car.

There are a few cheap halls out of town that can be hired with no houses around so I don't know why people don't do that where they can make as much noise as they like with no-one being inconvenienced.

The nights are still too cool for most of the vegetables to grow properly but some of the brave pumpkins are starting to make an effort.

The nights look like they are warming up on the forecast so I am hopeful that the worst is over.

I have put a few plants of many different kinds of pumpkin in this year so I can have a good display of vegetables at my open day, but it looks like they will not be ripening in time. Oh well, had to try, and at least I will have some more seeds of them.

I picked my little patch of Triteleia laxa 'Queen Fabiola' today. These are little, tasty bulbs that produce striking little, blue/purple flower heads that look a bit like miniature agapanthus.

The bulbs can be eaten raw but I prefer them cooked.
I stopped growing them for a couple of years because they are so hard to keep weed free but they are so pretty that I will continue to find a bed for them from now on.

They do produce seed but I pick off the flower buds as they appear as that dramatically increases the size of the bulbs, and they produce plenty of little bulblets around the base to propagate anyway.

The story of potato seedling D-154, week 11

The first, little purple/blue flower opened today, and you can see that the plant has started growing strongly this week. I expect this to continue for the next month until it is is full sized, mature plant.

Its siblings are also growing strongly and many of them have started to flower too over the past few days.

Staying on the potatoes, this is one I kept from last year. I am impressed with it because it is a daylength neutral diploid that grows and produces very quickly.

These are from a tuber I planted 60 days ago. I could have let them grow a little more (the tubers are usually double this size) but I harvested a couple of plants to test some dormancy, cooking and stuff with the tubers.

The tubers have deep eyes but thin skin so you don't have to peel them and they are just the right size for baking and salads.

Since they grow so quickly, if you wanted to harvest them at this size you should be able to grow them continuously in most of Australia and get three or four harvests a year, taking note of a bit of dormancy over the winter. Certainly in the subtropics where they don't get frosts.

These don't have any dormancy if you plant them straight away but you can induce some dormancy for storage. Depending on the mature tuber size and vigour of the remaining plants I may think about releasing this one for sale next year. I am stumped on a name for the new variety though, any suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Harvesting the Elephant garlic and garlic disease.

It was such a nice day today that I worked all day, mostly weeding but also harvesting my bed of Elephant garlic.

 I only put in one thin bed of Elepant garlic this year, mostly because although it is impressive in size and easy to grow, I find it very unimpressive in the kitchen. In my opinion it is badly flavoured and has a bitter and uncomfortable aftertaste. I much prefer real garlic.

Anyway, there are people who do like it so I always grow a little bit to sell.

The size of them this season was pretty small which surprised me as I thought the growing conditions were great, but, who knows.

This is the biggest of them, but they should all have been this size.

Here are some pictures of a garlic disease that many people are complaining about this year. I usually don't have much problem with this, as yet unnamed, disease but I did get a bit more of it this year than normal.

It seems to mostly attack hardnecks and after testing there is still doubt as to what causes it. It acts like a pathogen but testing has not found one.

The outer skins are green or blue when harvested, although sometimes it shows up early in storage. It is different than the greening that occasionally occurs when acid soil reacts with sulphurous compounds in the garlic.

When you notice the green/blue skin you will also feel a softening on that part of the bulb.

On peeling back a couple of layers you will see a discoloured, white patch surrounding the green discolouration.

Peeling further back to the cloves you will see that the damaged cloves look like they are bruised or watersoaked and that progresses to wrinkling and slight oozing of the affected cloves.

It is probably best to discard the entire bulbs and not plant the non-affected cloves in these bulbs.

In other news, the cool nights that I have been complaining of are continuing and the heat loving plants are just sitting, waiting for the warmer nights. These peanuts are still just as big as they were a month ago. They will start growing when the warmer nights start but I am getting impatient for that to start.

Same with the eggplants, okra and beans. I am waiting another couple of weeks before replanting the melons that didn't germinate at all.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Winter weather and zucchini

It feels like we have gone back to winter with rain and cold weather, there was even snot snow (edited, lol)on the mountains in Vic and NSW. Like last year the nights are still too cool for the summer vegetables to germinate and grow properly so I am concerned that things won't be looking good for my open day in early Feb. Well, not much I can do about it and worrying won't help.

At least zucchinis are pretty forgiving and they are just starting to show baby fruits. They are one thing I can rely on even in cooler weather.

I didn't put in many zucchini though I am regretting it now so I think I will plant some more this coming week. I really need to get this one stable as so many people want seeds of it.

While I was at the coast a couple of months ago I collected some samphire pieces to grow on the farm. These will go towards the growing of more native foods. Samphire is a salty, tender, succulant plant that is popular in other countries where it grows by the sea and is used steamed and tossed in melted butter.
I must remember today to sprinkle some salt around them as they need it but my soil has no salt in it.

Today I also repotted a heap of native pepper plants, some of which I will keep to grow and some I will offer to the new local nursery as they have asked for some plants for their stock.

The Story of Potato Seedling 154, Week 10

This little seedling has its first flower buds showing now so this time next week there should be flowers. This means that it will start to grow rapidly from now on.

After 6 weeks of decimation by aphids and fungal disease all the potatoes are all recovering and growing new leaves, though with this cool, wet weather the fungal diseases might return. I hope we get some hot, dry days soon but the forcast is not making me happy.

At least this seedling didn't have any problems with either the disease or the bugs so it will be a keeper if it produces ok.

This is one of the rows of TPS (seedling) potato rows. Although a bit patchy with larger plants mixed with small ones, if we get some nice days the small ones should catch up.

The mix of leaf colours and shapes is really pleasing to the eye though you can't see it in this pic. I love walking through them all just looking at them.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

mini dwarf choy, pineberries and more

With drier weather lately I have started regular irrigation three times a week, mostly on the younger seedlings but also on anything else that looks like it needs it. There is still some moisture in the ground but after the disaster last year I am happy to pay for too much water than not enough.

The days are getting nice and warn even though the nights are still mostly under 10 degrees. At least over the past couple of cold nighted springs I am able to get a good idea of what will germinate under cool nights. One surprise has been okra which I would have though is very intolerant of cool nights but although they are slow, they have germinated very well.

 The oca is starting to grow well under the new shade structure and it is so nice being able to hoe and weed standing up. I can imagine that is is going to be pleasurable working under it in summer.

I also have a row of cucumbers and arracacha under there also as they don't like hot summer sun.

One of my favourite vegetables to grow in mini dwarf choy. it grows fast, is mild, crisp, and tender to eat, and takes up so little room. The only problem as a seed grower is how little seed you get from an area because the plants are so small and don't make a lot of seed each.

Seed buyers are used to paying a certain amount for brassica seed and I think they are going to balk a bit when I charge them double or more for this one. It might be one to sell directly to market gardeners maybe. I think they would love it.

I think I did sell a small amount to one seed buyer last year but I plan to grow a lot more this coming season.

I have been growing it for years but only in small amounts for my own seed packets but it is far too go a vegetable to keep to myself and I think more people should grow it.

It is great in salads or stir fries, and the shredded leaves make a good cabbage substitute in coleslaw.

The pineberries are starting to fruit now but the seeds aren't turning red, probably because the leaves are so big and shading the fruit.

They are so vigorous and run everywhere. it doesn't take long for a single plant to fill up an entire bed, keeping in mind that you have to grow them with other 'normal' strawberries as they are not self fertile (hmm, I must actually test that).

They are so delicious that I can't stop eating them but I must save some seed this year to see what I end up with when I sow them.

 The Story of Potato Seedling D154, week 9

It won't be long now till this little seedling gets its first flower buds. Some of its siblings are already showing buds.
The siblings on both sides of this one are showing some yellowing leaves of a nutrient deficiency so I will fertilise the bed this week, but this tough little fellow is looking quite happy - no signs of disease, bugs or deficiencies.

They are only small but seedlings tend to grow a lot more while they are flowering and do end up as full sized plants over the season.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

As if my poor potatoes haven't suffered enough - Brown Leaf spot

After the worst aphid attack I have ever had on my potatoes that devastated many of my plants they were just starting to recover when the cool and moist nights have brought a new problem that is just as bad, Potato Brown Leaf Spot.

This is a disease that is related to early blight, and looks similar to it, but not quite as damaging. The cool nights are set to continue for a while yet but when it gets drier the potato plants should recover.
The bad thing is that the spores will be everywhere now and since it has a wide range of hosts I don't think I will ever get rid of it.

The good thing is that I have been able to identify quite a number of plants that seem to be either resistant or at least tolerant of the disease so I can concentrate on breeding more like that. Hopefully this disease struck early enough that the plants have not begun to make tubers that would be damaged by the disease.

Luckily it seems that all my diploids are resistant as I haven't got a single leaf spot on any of them. It is quite interesting.

My garlic harvest is under way. It is always satisfying to get them out of the ground and admire the healthy bulbs.

Luckily I have an old woolshed on the property so I can dry them on the slatted floors in there and there is heaps of air flow without being damp.

I really should have planted more beds but I was worried that I wouldn't have enough clear beds to put my spring seeds in. next year I should have plenty as I have cleared some more area for beds.

The white alpine strawberries are bearing prolifically this year and the plants are bigger and healthier than I have eve seen them. Same goes for the bed of pineberries. It is going to be a good season for fresh strawberries as well as seed.

After writing in my last post that I might have to delay sowing my summer seeds because the seasons are changing and the nights staying too cold for longer, I sat back and wondered, what am I thinking? If this sort of seasonal weather is going to continue it is my job to breed and select for vegetables that will cope with that situation.

Shortening the season will just mean less income (for everyone that grows vegetables and melons)so I need to get busy. If this is the future I need to select melons, pumpkins and all sorts of other plants that hate cold nights for plants that can be grown in them and flourish. From now on I am not going to complain about this but use it.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Garlic harvest, farm wildlife and visiting Sophie Thompson from Gardening Australia

This week has been so busy. On Thursday my sister and I went up to Mount Barker to visit Sophie Thompson (from Gardening Australia on the ABC) as she would have been too busy to chat if we came over at her open garden that was on this past weekend.
She, and her family are so lovely and generous with their time and knowledge. I so enjoyed that visit and hope to get over there again sometime next year. She will try to get back over for my open day but with her busy schedule it is unlikely.

With some warmer weather and some rain the weeds are sprouting up everywhere so I am busy weeding every day, whew. The down side is that the nights are still too cool to get the warm weather things germinating and growing properly. If the springs are going to continue doing this I will have to start my seed off in mid November rather than October.

The potatoes that had been suffering so badly are now covered with predatory insects and are starting to recover, well most of them. Some may be so badly gone that they may not recover or produce. I am leaving them to see what happens.

 I have been testing my Easy Grow garlic variety for its ability to withstand heavy weed pressure but the down side is that it is difficult to see and harvest the bulbs among the weeds. My answer to that is to mow down the bed and then dig it up.

While I was mowing I accidently mowed over this natural asset and skinned his tail. There really isn't much I could do so I had to let him go beneath the rhubarb as there are plenty of snails there. I hope his tail heals ok.

Blue Tongue lizards like these and their uglier cousin, Shinglebacks, are invaluable in gardens because they eat so many snails. I like to encourage them as I can and certainly never try to harm them. I have both kinds on the farm and in our house yard, as well as normal skinks which like to eat small snails and insects.

This is an example of the type of weedy bed I grew my garlic in this year, as well as some beds with thick wood chip mulch. I was so impressed with the growth and health (as well as the nearly weed free status) of the garlic grown with wood chips that I will only be growing them on chipped beds from now on.

I will be writing about my garlic observational, comparative trial in a few weeks when the bulbs have dried and I can measure weights and sizes.

 Here are a few of the Monaro Purple bulbs that I dug today.
Although it is my favourite variety it does not store particularly well, and, especially this year, is prone to secondary sprouting (grassy top).

The Story of Potato Seedling D-154, Week 8

This seedling is starting to take off now. I gave it some fertiliser this week before it rained.

Some of the other seedlings have been lightly affected by aphids but this one missed out.