Monday, October 29, 2012

Close to organic, and Coloured carrots

I was digging some new beds where my potatoes got wet this winter and rotted away :(    and realised that my back block did not have to be treated for snails or red-legged earth mite this year, and I am almost on top of the grass and weeds, well enough that I can cope with weeding it by hand at any rate. It has had its last spray of round up and I don't need to add any more chemicals to it, hopefully ever. If I continue with no chemicals I can officially mark it 'Organic' in 5 years. I won't get certified though as it costs too much and I don't want to add to the cost of my vegetables to my customers.

It feels good to have one of my blocks chemical free and clean, and I hope my D block will be at this stage as well in a few months *claps*.

Anyway, to my vegetable of the day, carrots, particularly coloured carrots.

Carrots

People are so used to orange carrots in the shops that they don't realise that they come in many colours. I grow red, orange, yellow, purple and white carrots which people love at the markets. In fact orange carrots are relatively new on the market, they were originally purple where they were first grown in the middle east.

All the colours taste similar but the white ones are very mild, great for children and eating raw. Coloured carrots look great in a salad and contain heaps of antioxidents and nutrients from the chemicals which cause the different colours.

Carrots are easy to grow, especially if your soil is light and sandy. You have to remember to sow the carrot seed very shallowly and keep them moist till they germinate.

Carrots can be cooked in a huge number of recipes from salads to cakes and you can find thousands of recipes for them with a quick search on the net.

To find out just about everything there is is to know about carrots I recommend this website:  http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/  The make of this site has done a great job and I go there often for a look.



Saturday, October 27, 2012

More vegetable happenings and mangel wurzel

Today I took my stuff to the Hamilton Farmers Market again and sold out again. Not a surprise since I didn't have much to sell - I had to take some plants to make up the stall. At least this has taught me to plan better for the spring next time. At least I broke even again this month, for the second time. I am really starting to believe that it won't be long before I am making a profit so I am feeling very upbeat. I just have to pick up my production.

The best thing about the market is that people are starting to ask for unusual things. I love that Hamilton people are so adventurous in their eating. My water chestnuts are taking off, and I have germinated my first lotus plants. If they grow well I will put in a lot more next spring.

I popped in to see the chef at a local restaurant to see if he will be interested in buying some of my produce. It is a small chain so I don't know if he has any say in what is bought but it doesn't hurt to ask. I think I ballsed it up for two reasons, It was lunch time so I knew he didn't have much time to talk to me, and I wasn't expecting him to be able to see me straight away so I didn't really know what to say. Anyway... I just babbled something about who I am and what I have and shoved a couple of business cards at him. I don't think I appeared very professional. Oh well, if he doesn't get in touch it is another lesson learned.

I also let myself down by not remembering to take a copy of the list of produce and prices I gave him so if he does call I will be embarrassed to have to ask for a copy of what I gave him.

Well things are looking up and I hope I break even or more every month from now on.

OK now. to make my blog more interesting I am going to profile a different vegetable or fruit each time. Today it is Mangelwurzel because, well, it just popped into my head and it always attracts a lot of attention at the market.

MANGELWURZEL

This is a large, hairy beetroot. In most countries it is grow for stock feed, but in those countries pumpkin is also often grown only for stock feed. It is a great vegetable but most people only think of it in its pickled and canned form, and even those who grow it don't usually realise how versatile it is.

Mangels come in red and white/gold varieties, but all of them have white flesh - great for messy eaters like me, lol. They are sweet like 'normal' beetroot but grow quite a lot bigger without going woody. They have one or two grooves down the side which are full of hairy roots ( let's call it a beard) which can make them a bit harder to peel neatly.

They can, of course, be pickled like most people know beetroot but they can also be cooked in many other ways - baked, chopped and steamed, grated, mashed, even made into cakes and muffins (Google chocolate and beetroot cake) and curries. Use them instead of 'normal' beetroot in any beetroot recipes. I like them boiled till soft like any other cooked vegetable like cauliflower or pumpkin, then served with a drizzle of butter or garlic butter.

You can steam and eat the leaves but I find them a bit coarse, I prefer sugar beet leaves when I feel like beet greens.


I sold the last of my eating mangels today at the market and have a bed of seeds in and a row of plants to collect new seeds from as they are starting to bolt. I should have more for the market in four or so months.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Seeds and dirt, never ends

Sowed a heap of new seeds in the beds today. I really wanted to wait for the manure to arrive but the seeds have to go in as well. I was expecting the sheep poo to arrive last week and if it doesn't come soon I will have to chase it up. Some of the beds are drying out badly now with the warmer weather and really need the mulch.

The seedling tomatoes are coming along sooooo slowly. They have had a bit of foliar fertiliser but they still don't want to grow. I am very impatient to get them in the ground. Their beds are waiting and looking very bare, I am itching to get them planted - I hate the look of bare beds.

The melons and pumpkins up popping up everywhere now and I can see where I will have to replant because of the snails. I always get so excited this time of year when I thing of the harvest.

Here is what two of the blocks look like right now. Part of the back block is on the left and D block on the right. They look a bit bare with all the spring seedlings still so little. Will take pics of the other blocks soon.













The Hamilton market is on Saturday and I just hope I have enough stuff to make the stall even a little bit interesting. I think I will have to take some plants as well as produce.

In the CSA boxes for friday I should have some onions, perennial leeks, mangel wurzel, oranges, lettuce, cabbage and dwarf bok choy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Damn red-legged earth mites again

Yes, I know I should have expected them, they come to decimate the seedlings every year at this time, but I always forget in the hope that if I don't think about them they will not appear this year.

Luckily I saw the dreaded red-legged earth mite on my melon seedlings quickly this year. They can destroy any small plants within a couple of days, and I didn't see any yesterday. I immediately got out the spray and fixed the problem. I hate to use a miticide but there is no organic way of getting rid of them otherwise except for getting rid of their main host plant - clover. Even getting rid of the clover only cuts their numbers in half, still enough to kill every seedling.

At least I only have to do one spray usually to be rid of them for the rest of the year.

Other news - I went to the Casterton garden club today. After the meeting we went to look at two members gardens in Henty. They were beautiful, and weed free, putting my efforts to shame.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

More wildlife in the beds

Got out to block D this morning and found a couple of baby bunnies in there under the cabbages. They were obviously a cross between a wild rabbit and an escaped pet dwarf, very cute but I really can't have rabbits in among my veggies.

I caught them and took them to a neighbours yard where they have lots of long grass, no vegetables and no dog. Yeah I know, they will be a future problem but I just can't bring myself to kill things by hand any more. I can't even stomp on snails and have to use traps and bait.

My melons and pumpkins are popping up and being eaten off so I had to go to the shop to get some snail bait. I prefer to use Multiguard because it is non-toxic to the soil and other animals but no-one here in town sell it so I had to get a toxic one. I will pick up some Multiguard later when I get over to Hamilton or the Mount.
Anyway... I put some bait around all my melons and pumpkins last night and this morning I got a shock at just how many snails and slags are about. I got a good kill but I am worried about how many plants have been eaten. I'm glad I planted some extras in tubes just in case as I think I will have to do a lot of replacing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Melons and pumpkins germinating

I went away to visit my sisters in Murray Bridge for a few days before it got to hot to leave the veggies and when I got back a couple of hours ago I was happy to see that some of my pumpkins and melons have started germinating. The cold nights lately delayed the germination which is why it has taken nearly three weeks for them to come up.

I expect that the warm weather over the next few days will start them all going. Now I just have to save as many as I can from the snails and blackbirds, sigh.

I think I have all my summer vegetables planned out and just waiting for the tomatoes and capsicums to get a bit bigger to plant them out to their places in the blocks.

I have decided that nearly all my potatoes were drowned and rotted in the wet and I have lost them all, luckily I kept a tuber or two from each variety and planted them in my D block down the back. I won't be able to put any in the CSA boxes before christmas but at least I can start again from scratch. I was so looking forward to offering unusual potatoes to my customers.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Warm weather and Weeding

Well, I think(hope) that last night was the coldest and from now on they will start warming up. Today was beautiful so I got stuck into some weeding and a bit of moving pots around. I was so nice sitting in the sun pulling weeds. Everything is starting to show some growth.

I'm sure my melons will be poking their heads up soon and I am looking forward to getting them going. I have already planted out the Achocha at my little old hothouse frame so it won't take long to cover that. I just hope the fruits go well at market.

My asparagus spears are so thick this year. I'm so glad I went with Argenteuil as it has been the best variety I have ever grown.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What's in the box this time

With a couple of nasty, cold and wet days I haven't got much done so I went into town, and of course that is where the temptation is. I bought a new pull cart to gather my harvest with as well as some seed and plants. Also got to spend some time with friends. It was a nice rest but I will be back to work soon as the weather begins to warm. The days have started to warm up but the nights are still very cold.

It is a really bad month with everything that came over the winter gone to seed and the new stuff still way off harvesting. The boxes will be a bit bare but what I do have to harvest is:

Onions
Celery
Asparagus
Silver beet
Parsley
Snow peas
Rat-tails
Garlic
Lettuce

I might be able to throw in a few oranges bought from elsewhere just for something different as well.

I have gone around and counted the species and varieties of cucurbits that I have got in this year. I have 51 melons, 7 gourds, 5 cucumbers and 11 pumpkins and squash. It is going to keep me very busy when they start flowering as I have to hand pollinate for seed keeping.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wildlife fun and games

Walked around to me P block this morning and just as I got there I found a black wallaby in there. It had not eaten anything that I could see but had stomped all over the seedling beds and made a real mess. I chased it out but instead of going back to where it came from it jumped off the other way into town. Oh well, I hope it makes its way back to its home tonight another way and not back into my veggies.

At least wallabies live alone, I would hate to go out one morning and see a whole herd of kangaroos in there.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Markets, soil and other odd bits

I went to the local small market in Coleraine today. There wasn't many people about but I still sold a few plants, at least I didn't make a loss after my costs. I met a couple of lovely people there who were very interested in growing unusual food plants so I am very happy with that.

On another note, I am very happy with the way my soil has improved over the past 6 months to a year, especially where I have added my sheep poo and straw mix. There are heaps of worms and other soil organisms and plants are doing noticably better. After turning over a few beds ready for replanting I have noticed that they have turned from sand to loamy sand. If I can continue to improve it one step each year I will be ecstatic. In another year I hope it has turned to sandy loam, then later to loam. I have ordered another $100 of the poo/straw mix which should be delivered in the next week.

My rat-tail radish seed pods maturing so I can harvest seeds.


I will be sowing some grain amaranth seed tomorrow and think of something to put in the other empty beds. I am lucky I didn't sow my melon seeds any earlier as they would then be starting to pop up now, and I hear that there will be a few frosts this week. I hope it doesn't damage the seeds.

Spent a bit of time on Ebay yesterday (slaps own hand) I bought some more seeds and a vanilla lily. I overwatered my ahippa and jicama seeds in the cold so they rotted. I have just bought some more. My achacha seedlings are waiting impatiently to go into the ground but I can't put them out now until these frosts are over.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Starting to come together

Well all my melons and pumpkins are in and I am even starting to get on top of the weeds a bit. It is amazing what a few nice days and starting work at 6am will achieve. There are going to be a few very cold nights over the next week so I won't ecpect my cucurbit seeds to start coming up for at least ten days. I do have some achocha seeds up though that I grew in a pot in the hothouse. These are another new vegetable that I will be trying out.

Put in some more rat-tail radish seeds this morning as they went so well at the market. Also planted a few lettuces and gathered some dwarf bok choi seeds. My lists are getting done each day which makes me very happy. I must get some more snow pea seeds tomorrow.

Got the Coleraine market on Sunday and I will take some potted plants along.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Melons, melons, melons

Well, it is the first week in October, time to plant all my melons and pumpkin seeds. It is going to take a few days to get all 50 or so varieties in my melon paddock but I will get there.

No particular theme this year, there are melons from all over the world - plenty of new ones I haven't grown before as well as some favourites from last summer. I just hope my season is better than the last one. Last year was so hot and dry that most of the plants aborted their female flowers so I got a pitiful harvest. I hope I get enough melons this year to stage a melon tasting weekend.

I have joined www.farmhousedirect.com.au which allows people to buy fresh produce directly from farmers. It will take a month to get my shopfront there up and running because I am not producing much right now but I hope this becomes a useful resource. It is a great idea. I might start off selling some dried gourds and food plants on there first until my vegetables get going.