Sunday, December 29, 2013

My year in review

All in all I have been happy with this year. I didn't make a profit but I learned many lessons and I can see myself getting closer to a real living from growing and selling veg.

The Good:
I am finally starting to break even after two years of impatience and problems. I am not yet making a wage but my goal of $400 per month (my break even point) is a reality. This covers all my costs from block rents, water bills and insurance as well as the small things like water crystals and stuff. I am in a good spot right now and I can see myself starting to make enough profit in the next 6 months to pay myself something.

After the last terrible summer I bought a heap of water saving crystals and put many of my beds under shadecloth. This has worked out just as I had hoped and the difference is amazing. In the next year I will try to get most of my beds under cover. The cost is steep but it will definitely pay for itself over time, the shadecloth should last for at least ten years and I will have to renew the crystals every three or four years. The extra commercial compost I am also putting on the beds is also making a huge difference.
It just goes to show that if you put in the money it will pay for itself in the end. I am already seeing that I don't have to water quite so much and the veg are growing better under the shadecloth.

One of the highlights of the year was getting some oca seed sent to me from America. I only have 6 seedlings but they are precious. I hope I can find a new and interesting variety among them.

The Bad:
I was planning to be making a profit and to be almost off government help this past year but that was not to be. It won't be long and I am embarrassed that I am still on benefits but I am feeling hopeful. I think I probably would have been off by now if last summer wasn't so bad. I am very embarrassed to admit that I am on some benefits but that is my incentive to get of it as soon as I can.

This spring was also a bit rough being unusually cool so I lost most of my heat loving plants like melons, corn and sorghum, all of which were an almost total crop failure. I do have a lot of tomatoes in but they are two months late. I hope the autumn frosts are late so I have a long selling season with them.
Some plants I really wanted to do well have been a bit of a disappointment such as  Native rock yam, achocha, Ahipa and Jicama but I will try again and if they don't do well next spring I will use the space for something else.

One of my disappointments was the kurrajong. The tuberous roots are delicious and I want to introduce them to my customers but I am having a hard time getting them growing. Everything likes to eat them and the only way I have been able to get a good germination rate on the last bed I planted has been to cover them with insect netting which also keeps the birds from pulling them up, sigh.

The Ugly:
Last summer was the hottest and driest on record and it meant that I had very little income from the vegetables for 6 months. After not being able to germinate seed for the first three months from the start of December because of the heat, by the time it was cool enough in march I still had to wait three months before most things were ready to harvest.
This was a very heartbreaking time but a good lesson and I have now prepared for another summer like that one so it shouldn't happen again.

The other serious problem I had was an unusually long spell of red legged earth mites which damaged or killed many of my seedlings for months. Unfortunately there is not much I can do about them.

Overview:
My best selling and most profitable plants have been - coloured carrots, beetroot, coloured silverbeet and rhubarb. The worst were lettuce and Vivid choi. I am happy that my customers are prepared to try new things so I expect that this list will expand next year, and I hope to have a couple of more unusual things on it. I have put in more yacon, oca and American groundnut, all of which are good producers and people like them straight away.

I will be selling more seed and plants next year as these have a better profit margin. a bed that might produce 20 bunches of carrots will produce more than 300 packets of seed. Seed sells well on my tables at the markets. I will have to buy a new printer shortly to print the packet labels as this old one is putting lines through all pictures that I can't stop even with nozzle cleaning.

I have been trying a lot of new plants this year. I have a good feeling about the Brodiaea laxa (Queen fabiola bulb). I have just picked my first bed and have tasted them. The raw bulbs taste like raw peanuts, not my cup of tea but edible but I find them delicious microwaved or boiled. I have found that removing the flower shoots when they are small doubles the size of the bulbs which makes them worth growing for food.

Some of the new plants I have started growing this year are: Chufa, Bamabara beans, wombat berry, different fresh and dry beans, Chinese yam, voodoo lily and coloured sweetcorn. Over the next year I will try skirrit, different coloured broad beans and true potato seeds.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Merry Christmas and The Beast

Well that is another Christmas over and we had a lovely time here with all the family meeting which is a rare occasion now. I hope all my readers had a great holiday and I wish you well and happy gardening for the coming year.

I am now just getting back into my routine after having it interrupted over the last week but luckily the weather was with me so everything is fine.
I did have one upsetting experience though. I was a bit suspicious so I had a closer look at my Rosella plants and found that they are actually Daicon radishes. It is a bit embarrassing but as my excuse I have never grown rosella so I didn't know what they looked like. Yesterday I noticed that the plants were not looking like the shrubs that I expected them to look like and the leaves were closer to the radishes I am growing in the next bed.
I suppose I should have looked earlier but I just trusted the packet. Oh well, that is a bugger and I have gone onto Ebay today and ordered another packet of Rosella, from a different seller.


This is a couple of pictures of my ugly zucchini that I am thinking of calling 'The Beast', or maybe 'Butt Ugly'.
Last year I saved the seeds of a very ugly fruited 'Golden' zucchini just to see what they would grow into. I grew out four plants and they are all different. I will save the seeds from this one and see what I get next year.
I am just about to cut one of these to check the taste and texture before I totally make up my mind on keeping the seeds though.

It is so vigorous and interesting that I hope it is good to eat as I want to put them on my market stall. Even if they don't sell they will make an eyecatching display, lol.











In two days I will post with an overview of the year with everything that worked and didn't as well as observations and then I will get back to my regular daily posts on Jan 2nd.

Have a happy new year and make some outrageous resolutions. :)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Poor sunburnt plants

After two days of over 40 C and a couple around 30 C I was happy to notice that my plants have coped a lot better than I had feared. The only plants that sustained any damage was the rosella and one bed of yacon.

There are a number of reasons that most plants came through this first taste of summer so well, there is still a little moisture in the ground and many tender plants are covered with shadecloth.

Burnt tips of rosella. They are starting to show some flower buds so I will have to cover them when we get some more hot, dry days.










One bed of yacon suffered but I think this bed is a bit dryer than the others. This bed is uncovered but I was surprised that the oca that is among the yacon plants weren't badly damaged. Of course it would be different if the how weather continued though.








I am happy that the hot weather combined with keeping the pots wet and humid has resulted in 5 new little oca seedlings. I was happy with the two seedlings that I managed to get up but these are a welcome bonus. As long as I don't get a pesky snail come in during the night for a taste I am looking forward to these seedlings being planted out.
I can't wait to see if I end up with a variety that is different enough to name and call my own.

I have been doing a lot of picking and podding of broad beans for seed over the last two days. My beans seem to have quite a bit of genetic variation so I have split them into 5 containers for the beds I will be growing next autumn. I love seeds, especially looking at them and running my fingers through them. It will be hard to sell off some but I now have buckets of broad bean seeds so I have to get rid of them. Lucky I have also found some great recipes for dried broad beans - My sister said that roasted, salted broad beans are absolutely delicious so I will make some of those.
- Craig, I have some Gippsland Giant seeds for you.

I put in a heap of seeds that I bought from Ebay in pots today. Now I am a bit of a loss as I am out of waiting for parcels and seeds to arrive for the first time in years. Looks like I will have to do a bit of buying again, lol.

EDITED - Just as I was finishing this blog post I was flicking over to ebay and found some more seeds to buy, Two different colours of broad beans (beans and flowers) and it looks like I will have to plan for another two beds. Now I am happy again, I love getting parcels.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Yam daisies and raised beds

With the weather predicted to be around 40 degrees C for the next three days I think I will be spending most of my time indoors, only coming out to water in the evening. Damn, I forgot that I have a meeting to go to tomorrow so I will have to go out in it after all.
I hate the heat so I am glad I live in Southern Victoria but Tas would be even better.

This is part of my yam daisy bed (microceris lanceolata) I have had them in since last winter when I germinated the seed. They are self selecting at the moment which means that any that can't take the same growing conditions as my other vegetables dies. I have about a quarter of the plants left so far.

They are still very small and I wonder why they grow so much better in pots than in the ground, after all they are a wild flower native to this area so they should grow better in the ground than in pots.




This is my friends raised vegetable bed. It is actually a lot bigger than it looks in this picture. It is waist high and grows all the veg they need just for himself and his wife.
I love raised beds, especially for older and infirm people. They are so much easier to handle than growing in the ground with no bending and very little weeding.
Water isn't wasted and being easy to garden makes people actually willing to go out and do the work rather than it being just too hard.

I think most children should make decent, permanent raised beds for their elderly parents if there is room and they like to garden. It is not that hard - just cement blocks and bricks or boards and some cement and a few hours work, or you can pay someone to do it. The results are always worth it.

Coming close to Christmas and with family coming down I may not be posting as much in the next couple of weeks. Don't worry I will still be doing my overview of the year at the end of the month.







Sunday, December 15, 2013

Calla lilies


Although they are not edible I have to admit that I have a soft spot for calla lilies. The form as well as the colours are so beautiful that I always have to stop and look at them.

The problem is that I can only grow them in pots as I have experience in how difficult they are to control when planted in the ground and they start to spread.

Maybe they won't be as bad in my sand as they shouldn't spread without watering, like how I control my mint, but I'm not sure if I can take the chance - once burned and all that.

I only have three plants in pots but I would love some more. This one pictured is the only one out in flower right now. Maybe I will get some but I find that looking after pots in summer is very tiresome.
I know some flowers do well for sale at the market - sunflowers and chrysanthemums and if these are also good sellers it might be worht the bother of growing them outside. Hmmm, something to think about. Anyone who would like to chime in with an opinion is welcome.

Anyway, they are tough plants and I would love to have a heap, maybe they could complement my dwarf bearded iris as pot plants to sell when I am a bit short of stuff at a market. Plants with flowers on them always sell well.

Sorry this isn't a long post, apart from weeding there was not much happening today.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I was a bit disappointed in the market today, I was hoping to find lots of people interested in the seed potatoes but hardly anyone was interested. I didn't sell a single bunch of Vivid choi either. Next time I will have to ask people why they are not attracted enough by this choi to buy it. This is very puzzling to me as it is so colourful and interesting.
At least I got rid of all the amaranth, and of course the snow peas..


 Some time ago I told you how the cherry trees and gooseberry bushes didn't set fruit this year, well...I did lie a bit. I did get one lonely fruit.
I waited till it was nearly ripe and took this picture yesterday hoping it would be ready to eat today.

It was obviously ready today as it was gone when I got home from the market :(




On a brighter note, my rosella plants are doing wonderfully, even with the cool weather. I am impatient to see if they do well here.

I can see them about to put on their vigorous growth so I don't think it will be too long before they start to flower.







Before winter I planted a few Wombat berry seeds (Eustrephus latifolius)

They didn't come up, so early last month I planted some zucchini in the bed instead. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that 5 wombat berry seedlings were poking through the soil so I hope the zucchini don't overgrow them as I am too afraid to transplant the berry vines.

Wombat berries produce berries that are edible but not very good by all accounts but they also produce tasty tubers. Apparently one researcher has mentioned in the past that they might make a good garden edible if someone had the time and energy to spend on selecting them for good tuber growth.

It is a twining vine so might go well on a trellis. I would like to grow it on shrubs but that would make it awkward to dig the tubers.






Friday, December 13, 2013

Digging out the weeds and plant updates

Another wonderfully cool and showery day today but that might be the end of it as the forcast shows it getting hotter from now on. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.

Since I had a bit of time before I had to start picking stuff for the market tomorrow, I got stuck into a job I have been thinking about for ages.
I have started the onerous task of digging out all the running grass between all the beds. I am sick of all the weeding to keep the edges nice so I am fixing it once and for all.
I rang up a supplier for some big bales of straw to put in between but he won't have any till the start of Feb so I hope it doesn't get too hot and start to dry out the ground before I can get it covered. It is much better to put straw over bare damp ground than dry to keep in moisture and help it break down quicker so it doesn't have enough time to all blow away. I just can't put this job off any longer.

Anyway I have made a start and when my new helper comes in January he can help get it all done.


My four surviving, very precious and expensive Bambara groundnuts are growing well. I was a bit worried as the weather has been too cool and damp for them but they are coping well.

It will be great when they start flowering and making pods. We are expecting heat up to 40 c during the coming week so that should help them get a move on as they are desert plants.
I am trying to grow as many dry loving food plants as I can so that one day I can have a block that I don't have to water during the summer. That will be a showpiece.



The Chilean guavas are flowering and setting profusely right now as the weather has been perfect for them. I love the fruit but I wish it was a bit bigger.
They grow best in the shade and I have my oldest bush growing on the southern side of our shadehouse so it gets enough shade and water to keep it happy.

When they are starting to ripen their fruit in a couple of months it will be time for the Luma berries to start flowering. Luma (Luma apiculata) are a bigger shrub/tree that likes more sun and has berries/fruit that is nearly identical to the Chilean guava so it is almost like an extension of the season.







Thursday, December 12, 2013

My water crystals experiment - amazing

Ok, so a couple of weeks ago or so I was updating my experiment with two beds, on of which has water saving crystals added and one which hasn't. At the time there was a little difference between them but not enough to really comment on.

Over the last two weeks the difference in them has been amazing. They have been treated the same, had the same amount of water and the soil is the same. The only difference in the maintenance has been removing two volunteer tomatoes from the bed without the crystals.
The beds contain a mixture of amaranth and silverbeet. The amaranth was picked two weeks ago for the local market (cut off a few inches from the ground and allowed to regrow).

 This is the bed with the water crystals added at 500g of crystals to the 4 x 1m bed.
The growth has been phenomenal over the past two weeks and I will be picking the amaranth again tomorrow for the Saturday market, and because it is threatening to overgrow the silverbeet.








The bed without the water saving crystals is doing barely ok in the sand. There is still some moisture in the soil but obviously not enough to keep them growing as they should. The amaranth is not as green as the other bed.
You can see the two patches left and right where I removed the potatoes.
I will pick the amaranth just to keep the beds equal but there will not be much for market from this bed.




Here are the two beds side by side. Apart from the water holding issue, I think the better bed is doing so well because I used Seasol (a seaweed tonic) on both the beds when the plants were still seedlings and I guess that the crystals absorbed some of the mixture and the plants are using it as they grow, whereas in the other bed any Seasol not used by the plants just went straight through the sand and they need fertiliser now.

These beds are just sand, I will do another test on beds with compost and manure added shortly so I can just test the water saving of the crystals without the fertiliser problem.



I went to the local backyard food growers group last night (which is why I didn't post yesterday) and although there weren't many people there because there are so many other Christmassy stuff and parties everyone has to attend this time of year, we had a good time and everyone bought goodies to eat. This group is just a heap of local people who love to grow their own food but we don't have a formal meeting, which is good, it is just a chance to get together and talk about fruit and veg. I would like to see groups like this in every town.
I won a cookbook in the raffle.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pepinos and spotty pumpkin leaves

The strange spring continues; more cool and showery days almost - almost- making me look forward to a bit more sun. At least this weather has everything growing wonderfully. I am going to have a good lot of produce for the market in Hamilton on Saturday.


 I accidently left one of my overwintered pepinos in the polyhouse where it grew into the soil of one of the raised beds. I think I will grow them in there every year now as it is doing so well.
Usually I don't get any fruits forming till autumn but this plant has loved the extra heat and is forming a heap of fruit already.
I am looking forward to some summer pepinos.

Because they tend to be very variable in taste even if you pick two fruits the same ripeness from the same bush they will often not taste the same, I prefer them stewed or put into pies. But I have to admit that a good pepino is very delicious. Maybe having them in the raised beds might keep the pests out of them as well.


One of the pumpkins that I grew from seed from my neighbours has this spotting on the leaves. At first I thought it is a virus but the plant is healthy and just as strong as the rest, and it doesn't look like virus infected leaves that I found on Google, so I think it is either a bacterial infection or a genetic sort of spotting (a bit like moon and stars watermelon). The younger leaves have more spotting but all the leaves have at least some spots. None of the other cucurbits have any sign of spotting.

As long as the plant grows well and it seems to do no harm I will keep it for the novelty value and for my interest.
I have no idea what these pumpkins look like or how they taste, time will tell.

In other news I had a visitor today that took many of the plants that I was worrying about planting or throwing out so that was a blessing. I hate cleaning out perfectly good plants just because I have no room for them. I suppose that if I tried I could pop them in here and there, I find that they just get missed with the watering when I do that.



Monday, December 9, 2013

Nitrogen nodules and seed organisation

I was pulling up some of my broad beans today and took a couple of pictures of nitrogen nodules on the roots for those of you who do not know what they look like.
Generally legumes  and some other plants attract symbiotic bacteria which absorb nitrogen and produce these nodules that allows the plants to access it. Most plants form symbiotic relationships with bacteria or fungi to help them absorb nutrients because most nutrients are actually hard for plants to use directly. The bacteria in this case receive carbohydrates from the plants in return.











The nodules are only active if the plant is alive and healthy so to take advantage of the nitrogen you should dig the plants (or just the roots) into the soil before the plant dies. If the nodules are juicy and pink or orange they are active and useful. As I pulled up these beans I picked off the nodules and dropped them back into the soil as the plants were too big and woody to dig them whole into the ground.
If you live in an area infested with root node nematode like I do you should learn to be able to recognise the difference between the nematode nodules and nitrogen nodules.

To fertilise my beds I usually plant snow peas, take two or three pickings off then dig them into the soil This is much more cost efficient than letting the bed fallow for months, not making an income, and works better than most other green manures, in my opinion. I usually have 5 or 6 beds in peas at any one time and the peas are easy to sell so I can never have too many of them.


A few people who have visited have commented on my seed organisation so here it is.
I use those sheets of plastic pockets that you can buy from newsagents to store trading cards. I then put them in folders so I can easily find what I plan to plant on any particular month.

This system works really well, much better than a mix of packets in a shoebox, lol. The only problem I have had is when I drop a folder and half the packets fall out. Lucky it is easy to put them back.




























Sunday, December 8, 2013

My fascination with fasciation

I was a bit disappointed in the Sandford market today. After taking a 11 different varieties of seed potatoes and making a lovely display there was no interest in them. I know, I know... "What? grow my own vegetables? It is much more fun using my backyard to store rusty, old, broken down cars"

Anyway, I am still having trouble also with the Vivid choi for some reason. Usually people love the coloured veg but no-one gives this beautiful vegetable a second glance. I am going to have to think of a new marketing angle to get people attracted to it.

When I got home I did some watering and decided to take a couple of pictures of this kohlrabi plant that has a giant fasciated stem.
Wikipedia says:
Fasciation (or cresting) is a relatively rare condition of abnormal growth in vascular plants in which the apical meristem (growing tip), that normally is concentrated around a single point and produces approximately cylindrical tissue, instead becomes elongated perpendicularly to the direction of growth, thus producing flattened, ribbon-like, crested, or elaborately contorted tissue.Fasciation can also cause plant parts to increase in weight and volume in some instances. The phenomenon may occur in the stemrootfruit, or flower head. Some plants are grown and prized aesthetically for their development of fasciation. 

I find it puzzling as to why each year it is a different vegetable that this phenomenon shows up in, a couple of years ago many of the melons showed varying degrees of fasciation, I can't remember what plant it was last year.

There are many theories as to what causes it but no-one knows for sure. Most scientists think it can be caused by a number of stresses on the plants, but that doesn't explain why it only affects one or two individual plants at any one time.
They say it can be caused by anything from water stress to viruses to hormone problems.

In any case it is not usually anything to be worried about.

Some plants like some cacti are encouraged to form fasciation (it is hereditary in these varieties) which accounts for their fantastic forms.

 Some years you see it everywhere on different plants but this year I have only spotted this one. The stem is huge and much taller than the surrounding plants.
They are always incredible.


I have decided that I can't bear to waste all the oca and other plants in pots that I was going to discard so I will plant a couple more beds that I have recently harvested seeds from. I have more space than last year so I can spare a bit of it. I only hope I can easily sell the tubers when they are harvested, I will have heaps.
I will do that tomorrow since the weather is supposed to be cool.







Saturday, December 7, 2013

Queen Fabiola bulbs and Chinese yams

Although it got quite warm later in the day, and it is still 27c outside now, I managed to get a lot of weeding done this morning. It looks like I am finally getting on top of the weeds in places, lol. At least as summer progresses all the weeds will die off and it will look neat and tidy again, at least for a while.

You may remember that I have a bed of Brodiaea laxa 'Queen Fabiola' planted in the back block to see how it goes as an edible crop. These are a native North American bulb that is sold in stores as a garden ornamental.
They are starting to die off now, they die off as they flower, and I will soon be able to lift and store them.

I was impressed at their production with every bulb I planted producing about 8 offsets so it won't be long till I will have enough to sell. 

I found that the bulbs grow about twice the size if I pick of the flower stems early as you can see in this picture which is handy to know as they aren't that big anyway.

When I have more to take up I will do a taste test though from what I have read they are tasty both raw and cooked.

 My Chinese yams are not growing quite as fast as I expected but they are healthy looking and at least they are alive.
Last year I planted them in two raised beds but the summer burnt them off when they were tiny and they didn't regrow so I thought they had died. I planted a couple more that I had in pots but then the ones from last year decided to poke their shoots up so I have three in each bed.
I may still have to shade them somehow for the worst part of summer next month as they seem to prefer a bit of shade in the afternoon.

Even if the tubers are too much of a bother I have read that they produce tons of stem tubules which are edible and I can always use these instead. I planted them in the raised bed so I can just separate the halves to get at the roots as they are so fragile. As my soil is so sandy and light I probably could plant them out in the ground but I will try them in the raised beds.

The last Sandford market for the year is tomorrow so I have just come in from picking snow peas, broad beans and vivid choi. I am also taking a few tuberous vegetables in pots as they have to be planted out and if they don't sell they will just be discarded.
Next Sat is the last Hamilton market so I will be picking the last of the broad beans then and then pulling the plants. I think even the Mount Gambier markets have a holiday in Jan so I may not have any more markets till Feb unless I can find one I don't usually go to.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Disappointed in my licorice

Over the past couple of years I have been puzzled by my licorice plants. I dug and tasted the roots of a couple of them last winter but didn't find them to taste of licorice at all. I figured that I must have tasted them at the wrong time of the year. I got my seeds from two different sources so they should have been the right plant though one looks different to the rest, they all have the right leaves though.


I noticed today that one of the plants is flowering and since the flowers don't look the same as on websites (mine are wheel shaped instead of long) I guess they are not licorice after all. Bummer.

That is a couple of years and waiting down the drain. I think I will pull them out and plant something else in the bed. I don't know if I dare try to get more seeds.

Even if they do turn out to be licorice I am not sure if they are worth bothering with as the roots of mine don't taste of anything special - just root.


Anyway, the weather has been great over the last couple of months with a few days of warm to hot days followed with a few days of cool and showery weather. Apart from the heat loving plants everything is growing great and I am loving it. I can't find anything to complain about which suits me fine.

Today, between showers I put out the last of the soil wetter and weeded the celery. I have all 4 of my coloured celery varieties in now so they should make a good display at the markets. Oh wait, I have three in, I am waiting for the yellow variety to ripen its seed before I can sow more of it. I hate celery but I have to admit that I can eat the yellow one as it is so mild in taste, though it is a touch more stringy than supermarket celery.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pobblebonks

What's worse that cutting up worms as you dig in the garden? Hurting and killing burrowing frogs.

We have lots of pobblebonks living in the ground around here and it is really sad when I dig them up, and worse when I am digging and hurt them with garden tools. I know there is nothing I can do but it is sad all the same. At least I know that the soil is good and people can have proof that I don't use much in the way of artificial chemicals as frogs are VERY sensitive to chemicals.

Here are a couple of pobblebonk pictures from a frog I dug up today (unhurt). Usually they are very placid but this one was feisty, I let him go as soon as I took some pics.












Most of the day I have been digging up my potatoes and replanting the beds. Some were a few weeks early but it really doesn't matter because most people expect seed potatoes to be small. I will be taking them to the Hamilton market on the 14th as it will be the last market till Feb and I can't take them over the border to the Mt Gambier markets.
By the time Hamilton starts again I will be nearly ready to dig them again as I grow them all year round and get two harvests a year.

It works out well for me selling them as seed potatoes as I can get around 10-20kg per bed (1x4m beds) after I have replanted the bed and I can sell seed potatoes at $10 per kg so I am easily making my expected per bed income of $100 per year in the potato block.


I dug 11 varieties but three types that were two young (sprouted late) were left and I will dig them next year.
I will over plant the beds with a quick growing veg like mizuna or Vivid Choi which will keep the beds productive till the tubers start sprouting again.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Update on my projects

Today I thought I would give you an update on my various projects.


 Jerusalem artichoke - Last season I managed to get two seeds from my artichokes and this one seedling was the result. With a seedling I should be able to produce more seed producing plants which may possibly lead to plants I can select for various traits.

With the limited varieties available in Australia I have to jump at any chance I can.

This seedling will be planted into a bigger pot tomorrow as it will be a bit cooler for a few days.



Oca - A forum friend sent me some oca seeds some months ago and I only managed to get one seedling (pictured) from that lot so I bought some more seed a few weeks ago. He was also kind enough to send me 3 TINY, very rare ulluco seeds. I put them all in the same pot as I am not counting on any of the ulluco seeds to germinate, they rarely do, Today I can see a wee tiny seedling. I hope it is an oca seedling and not a weed.





Out on J block I found that some of my oca are flowering, that was a surprise. It is probably a combination of the cool, wet spring and being under shadecloth.




These are looking happy and healthy under their bed covers.

I have started giving two oca plants only 8 hours of light a day to see if I can get them to tuberise early. In a couple of weeks I will plunge them into total darkness.






Carrots - My 'Saturn' variety and the purple parisians are starting to flower in their respective blocks. I am impatient to see what the next generation will look like.

Water saving crystals - For those of you who are new to my blog, I have two beds side by side to test the effectiveness of water saving crystals. Both beds contain a mix of silverbeet and amaranth and only one bed has the crystals dug into the soil. Because there is still a bit of moisture in the soil there is no real difference in the growth of the plants at this time. Later I will also check for worms and other soil organisms.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Lost fruit and fuchsias

Today I went out and found that most of my snake beans have been eaten off. It is really annoying and I am blaming either birds or mice at the moment. Luckily I still have time to replant them but I don't have any more red snake bean seeds left so I will have to look after the 5 plants that are still there.

Talking of birds, after a bit of wind blew off the net on my strawberries I went out this afternoon to water and found a flock of starlings feasting on them. At least these will produce more fruit in the next couple of days.


Not much to show - with the poor start to spring causing all the cherries and gooseberries to abort their fruit at least I got a whole handful of redcurrants ripening. Maybe next year we will get more spring frosts to set the fruits. It is a real problem for the cherry farmers in Vic and SA who lost their whole harvest and have no income. I hope they all have other sources of income as well as the cherry trees.



 As I don't have anything else interesting to show here is a couple of pics of my mothers fuchsia and fern shadehouse now that it is full of flower.

This is only a small part, the whole shadehouse is a sight to behold at the moment. There is a sprinkler on the roof to keep it damp and cool in summer so the ferns and other shade loving plants are looking fabulous.

All I have to do now is try to convince here to allow me to grow some of my shade loving veg and fruits in there. Not much hope of that, lol.


She has about 70 cultivars and they are all magnificent.





Sunday, December 1, 2013

watering, markets and seedlings

Sorry I didn't update last night. I generally work very early in the morning (6-12) then rest for the afternoon but if I have to get some watering done or have some other jobs I do it just before dark so sometimes I don't get in til about 9pm this time of year. The last thing I want to do at that time of night is sit in front of the computer.
Because it s not humid here in summer so the risk of disease is less I always water in the evening as the soil and plants have all night to soak up the moisture and recover from hot days. If I water in the morning I run the risk that the water will evaporate before the plants can use it and the plants won't take it up if the weather is too hot as they shut down their systems to protect themselves.

Although the cool spring means that all the heat loving plants are more than a month behind schedule some of them are starting to move now that we have been having some warm days.

My ahipa (pictured) and jicama seeds are starting to germinate. Not many so far but I hope I get quite a few more. The tubers I left in the ground from last winter have not reshot yet. I might have to do a bit of investigating to see if they are still there.


 My corn is still so small but I hope it will take off now with hotter weather on the way. I have had such poor germination and growth with the cold that I will have to wait till next spring to try again for some decent corn to eat and collect seed from.
My, it didn't look that weedy when I took the picture this afternoon.


They are always very slow to germinate but this year even more so. Here are my Mexican sour gherkins. I have grown them next to a row of sunflowers which will give them something to grow on and protect them from the hot summer sun.
I really should have put more of these little gherkings in as they were popular last year.






I went to the Hamilton market yesterday and mostly sold out but I was very disappointed that hardly anyone was interested in the Vivid Choi that I was so proud of. Maybe it was just too different. There is the last market until Feb on the 14th of Dec so I will try again then. Looks like I will have to think about what I will be taking to the Mt Gambier market now that the Hamilton one is on holiday. I have some limitations on what I am allowed to take over the border into SA. Nothing in the tomato or onion families and not soft-skinned fruits but melons are OK.



Friday, November 29, 2013

Vivid choi

A couple of months ago I was given some 'Vivid Choi' seeds. I put some of them in straight away and I have just harvested the first bed for the Hamilton market tomorrow.

I LOVE the colours and a couple of days ago I picked a plant to cook.
I happily found that they keep their colour when braised or steamed but I was a bit disappointed in the flavour. I think that people who like silverbeet will love these but they are a bit two bitter for my tastes - I did nibble a few leaves from both beds I planted and they all tasted the same.

My mother who does like silverbeet commented on how much she liked this choi but my father left his because of the bitterness. I will have to inform customers of this or they might expect them to taste mild like many other Asian veggies.

I will definitely be planting more, not only for the great colour but they grow quickly and will be a great veg when I don't have much else in spring. They should also make a nice, colourful 'rapini' also.

If someone had time to put into improving the flavour (well, to my taste) I think this new veg will take off.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

seed potatoes, daylilies and silverbeet

After a boiling day yesterday we are back to a cold and rainy 14 C today and although my heat loving plants like tomatoes, corn and melons are stunted and sulking because of the cool weather I am really enjoying it. I have been able to get a lot more growing in this weather than last year at this time and my water bill will be way down. The great thing is that they have revised the weather forecast to maybe not as bad as last summer, yay.

Apart from a quick trip to Mt Gambier I have spent the day weeding and digging up some seed potatoes to sell at the market on Saturday. For a long time I was reluctant to sell seed potatoes as mine are not certified and I was always afraid that they would be full of disease for some reason even though they are from certified stock and grown in clean soil but I read some research that was done a couple of years ago (the results are on the web but I will have to search to find the paper) where the CSIRO took samples of seed potatoes from three seed spud growing facilities around Australia and tested them for viruses and other diseases and found that they had the same diseases as supermarket spuds but not quite as much. I was astounded, so much for disease free!!.
So since mine have no sign of any disease I am quite happy to sell them as uncertified seedstock.

Last year I put in a row of young daylily sedlings and they are flowering now. I don't know why the flowers and budsare not sold as garnishes and salad ingredients as they are so delicious and add some great colour. It seems only Asians know their real value.
 When they are bigger and flowering well I will sell the flowers fresh or dry at the market. I let some dry on the plants and have been picking and eating them as I work, yum.
I suppose the problem is that a few people have allergic reactions to them.

Here is a picture of one of my flowering coloured silverbeet plants. It won't be long till they will be drying and ready to harvest.
I let all the colours flower together and I get a great range of colours in the resulting seedlings.



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Onion bulblets and elephant garlic

Back to normal today, yippee.
It was too hot to do anything this afternoon but I will go out and mow the lawn when it cools and before it gets dark. This morning I did some weeding and planting another bed of beans, I also dug my elephant garlic (See below)
On Thursday and Friday it is predicted to be cool again so I will plant out my beds of red and pink (Peppermint  variety) celery. The seedlings take so long to grow but I have to plant them out now even though the seedlings are small as I may not get any more cool days later.

 While I was doing my morning inspection I noticed that some of the flower heads of my California red onions were producing topsets. I have been doing some experimenting with this variety to get them to bunch better so I don't have to keep sowing seed but I have not had them produce these bulblets before. I will plant them out to see if the resulting plants will also produce topsets.


I had a really bad year with my elephant garlic but at least I did get one big bulb. It makes all the others look like infants.
These were the last of my garlic to be ready to pull. I have not consiously chosen early varieties of garlic but mine seem to be ready earlier than everyone elses. You can see by the green leaves that this particular bulb could have stayed in the ground for another week or two but the rest were ready and I need the bed so it came out too.










Monday, November 25, 2013

Crap, crap, crap

I woke up last night with a fever and had to wait two hours before it broke and I could get back to sleep. Today I spent part of the day on the toilet and the rest in bed. I feel like crap.

I know that is not what you want to read when you read my blog but I am just explaining why I haven't done any work, besides a bit of watering I dragged myself outside to do, today which is a shame as today was so lovely and sunny. Oh well, I should be better tomorrow and I will go out and take some pics for you.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My new oca experiment and Brodiaea bulbs

With another cool and rainy day today - Yay, I didn't get a lot of work done, just a few odd jobs and weeding between showers. I thought I would tell you about a couple of experiments I am doing in some spare patches.



 After reading about some interesting ways of getting oca to tuberise early I am going to use this plant that came up from a missed tuber last year to see if it might be viable to produce two harvests in one year in my climate.
This plant started shooting at around the 1st of October so it is two months old and a good size. In a week, at the end of the month, I am going to cover it so it gets only 8 hours of sunlight per day to get it into tuberising mode, then after 2 weeks or so I will cover it and place it in complete darkness. This should get it to put all of its energy into tubers.
If it works and I can get a harvest in only 3 1/2 months I will try it on a larger scale next year. Should be interesting.


 I have a favourite blog that I read (it saddens me that it hasn't been updated for a couple of months )

http://radix4roots.blogspot.com.au/

One of the posts contained information on Brodiaea laxa which is a Native North American bulb that produces tasty and edible bulbs according to that blog. 

In Australia the only variety I can find easily is 'Queen Fabiola' so I put a packet of bulbs in last Autumn and they have just started to flower. It is usually planted as a garden ornamental.


Although the bulbs are fairly small they produce heaps of offset bulblets so it should be easy to build up stock, and I have found that picking off the flower stalks increases the size of the bulbs.

If they do turn out to be tasty and worth growing I will put in a couple of beds next year. They seem to be ridiculously easy to grow which is a big plus.