Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pumpkin problems

Well, after delivering my boxes yesterday I sat down to a meal of the 'Pastilla Shampan' pumpkin that was also in the boxes. To say I am disappointed is an understatement, they were bland, totally tasteless.
No matter how rare they are I will not be growing them again next year. Anyway, this morning I hopped in the car and went to deliver another pumpkin to each of my customers to replace the PS.

Here is a picture of a bunch of young coloured carrots, just for the heck of it as I didn't have anything interesting to take photos of today.

And a picture of a couple of my potato beds. Now that the frosts have knocked them down I am able to get in and weed and mulch the potatoes. On the left is a bed I have weeded and mulched and on the right is one I will do on Monday. They will then be ready to sprout in spring (I leave my spuds in the ground over winter as it doesn't flood in this block).

Friday, June 28, 2013

Scorzonera and boxes

I delivered my veggie boxes again today. One of the vegetables in them was a good bunch of scorzonera. As I dig them I was very happy to see that they looked nice and straight.

There was only two forked ones among the whole lot. This is a lot different than the other bed I had over on D block where I found that they have no resistance at all to root knot nematode, they were so twisted and horrible that I turfed the lot out.
I love scorzonera, it is really ugly but delicious. I hope my box customers agree. I am going to gather as much seed as I can in the summer as I want to grow lots of these. I have one bed in for seed and replanted some smaller ones from this bed as well. They are two different varieties so it will be interesting to see how they perform side by side.

To cook scorzonera I like to boil them till they are just softening (about 7-10 minutes) then let them cool just enough to be able to rub off the skin. Now I chop them into pieces and fry with onion, butter and maybe some lemon juice or some other vegetables. They are even yummy just fried butter as they are.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Just random ramblings

It wasn't a very exciting day today so I will just write about boring things.

Another cold morning followed by a lovely day. I am getting spoiled with not having to get out and work til 10am, well actually not wanting to get out till 10am because my fingers will freeze off. I don't think I could bear to live in parts of Europe or America where it is freezing for months.

I am off to the Henty garden club meeting tonight. Brrr, you would think that for a tiny club they could meet in members homes over the winter. As it is we all arrive covered in coats, scarves and beanies and huddle in the tiny hall kitchen to try and keep warm with each others body heat. No... that paints a nasty picture in my head - we are so buried in coats and clothing that it would be impossible for that sort of thing so stop with your nasty thoughts!!!

Tomorrow I will take a trip to Hamilton to pick up some deer skins to use in my upcoming tanning course. I already have about 6 people coming so it will be a good weekend. I have someone supplying me with enough fox skins so all I need now is to find some sheep skins and I will be ready. The course is on the first weekend of August.
Luckily I have to drop off some asparagus plants on the way which will cover the cost of my petrol to Hamilton.

Apart from planting two beds of broad beans I didn't get much gardening done today but I suppose I have to have the occasional rest.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shadecloth arrived

Wow, that was quick. The shadecloth that I ordered from the supplier in NSW arrived today so I got to work cutting it and working out how to attach it to the polypipe hoops.

 I cut it to 4m lengths which is the length of my veggie beds. It was a 50m roll so I got 13 full lengths (their roll gives a few extra feet for luck, lol).

It is 50% shadecloth which should be perfect for the veggies in summer. Enough to give shade from the worst of the summer sun but still let enough light through that they need.

To make it easy to use, I attached curtain rings to the lengths so I can slide the shadecloth over or take it down as I want. When it is not in use it will just lay on one side of each bed.
It would have made it a bit easier to used bigger curtain rings but I couldn't get them. These work fine but the cloth is not quite as easy to pull over as I had hoped.
It will certainly make it easier than struggling with clamps though.

If I need to take the shadecloth totally off, all I have to do is slip it off the hoops, easy.

This is how the nearly finished beds look. All I need to do is add a guy rope at the front and back to keep the shadecloth taut and neat and they will be done. I now have 13 finished beds and now that I know it works I will buy more polypipe and shadecloth in a few weeks when I can afford it.

You can imagine how my blocks are going to look when most of the beds are covered.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Today was the Hamburg parsleys turn

Not quite a frost this morning thank goodness so it was a lot easier to get out and do some work before lunch. Actually it was a glorious day and I even took off my coat for a while, an unusual thing for me at this time of year.

One of the main things I did today was dig and sort my Hamburg Parsley roots for seed stock.

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the roots. They were a good size although some were long and some squat like this one. There were only a few forked ones and only two that would qualify for an ugly vegetable competition.

This was definately the ugliest

Anyway, considering that they were affected with Root Knot Nematode they were pretty good, nematodes often cause bad forking and ugliness. In fact there seemed to be some resistance in some of the roots so when I have enough seed I will start selecting for nematode resistance so I don't have to worry about where I grow them.

I like this parsley, the leaves can be used like parsley though they are a bit more course than 'real' parsley but the roots are tender and good to eat, tasting a bit like parsnip with a hint of parsley. They grow easily, especially now with the cooler weather but don't germinate in hot conditions.

In other news, I now have all my water bills and they are a lot less than I expected *whew* and I have just finished paying them so no more worry until summer as I don't need to use water up till November.
I bought the shadecloth to go on my hoops over the beds. I only bought one 50m roll just in case it doesn't go as well as I expect but if they look ok I will buy a couple more rolls. There goes the profit I was expecting this month.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Garden club talk and frost

My poor tamarillos, they did quite well last year and I thought that now they are bigger that they would cope with light frosts a bit better still. I was wrong, even the ones I planted under trees are not handling the daily frosts well at all even with covering.

At least most of my other plants are doing ok, well, except the pepinos which always die down almost to the roots in the winter.

I did a talk at the garden club today about seed buying terminology and showed off some of the veg that I picked for the display this morning. I talked about the meanings of some words associated with heritage and commercial seeds and varieties as well as going over some of the rare and unusual veg that I brought along. They were really interested in the different colours of beetroot and carrots as well as the kohlrabi and yacon.

Everyone was very pleased with my talk and said that it was very informative and cleared up some misconceptions. The club even gave me a couple of blocks of chocolate for my trouble, Mmmmm. and I got a new box order.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Chook poo

Got my hazelnuts planted today, I can't wait to get some but as one is very small I don't think I will get any even though they have buds on them and will flower in a month or two. The smaller one is just a small sucker and won't have enough flowers to pollinate the big one. I might try hand pollination though.
I will try to make a good hazelnut hedge for shade as they grow.

My parents went over to the mount today and brought me back some bags of chook poo to spread on some of the beds that I put straw on a couple of days ago. By spring they should be broken down enough to plant. The guy who usually brings my sheep poo/straw mix has a broken tractor and has been a bit slow in getting it fixed. I may have to wait till after winter now for it. Such a bugger as it breaks down so well and plants grow terrifically in it.

I checked on some of my purple carrot breeding beds and found that barely any are turning purple. I thought purple was a dominant trait but I must have it wrong so I will collect seed from them and replant in spring.

This is a bed of F1 seedlings from a cross between Deep Purple and Purple dragon. I am hoping that when I do get a fully purple open pollinated carrot that is will have purple leaves like Deep Purple so I will be selecting for that in the next generation.

I also have a bed of seedlings that I am trying to breed a purple parisian style carrot in (parisian x purple dragon). They are also not showing purple so I hope the next generation segregates strongly.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day in Hamilton

Spent the morning in Hamilton while doing a favour for one of my sisters so didn't really get anything done except spend money for the day.

I popped into the nursery to just have a quick look around and came out with a couple of well grown hazelnut trees, that was after going into Mitre 10 to have a look and coming out with a finger lime. I just can't trust myself with money when I get near plants, lol. I have someone bringing some hazelnuts to the Nareen veg swap at the end of the month so I should have a nice grove growing in a couple of years.

Anyway, some good did come out of my shopping. The nursery was very interested in stocking some of my plants so I will go back (with no money) in a few weeks and take some oca and yacon tubers with me, and also discuss some of the other plants that I grow. They seemed very eager but they were too busy to go into any detail.

I didn't have time to go out and inspect my plants this morning but I did when I got back and many shrubs were burn't by the frost yesterday which I expected. I should have thought to cover them up. Well, there is warnings of more frosts in the next week so I will gt out the frost cover tomorrow, not that it seems to do much good but it might help a bit. The pepinos and tamarillos are particularly badly hit.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Brrrr, cold and ugly carrots

Woke up to a frost this morning. It was -2 degrees C which is about the coldest we get here. I decided that I couldn't force myself to go outside till 10 am. It was after lunch before I could get my fingers to work properly. Gee I'm glad I don't live in cold countries that get snow and frost for many months of the year.

Winter is the time for most of the choosing of the root vegetables for seed. I have done a lot of them but today was the turn of the 'Jaunne Obtuse du Doubs' carrot. I don't have many of these as I accidently harvested and sold most of the one bed I planted, oops. It is a large, yellow carrot that is delicious and easy to grow.

Most of the roots were perfect and I replanted them but these few would make great contestants in an Ugliest vegetable competition. Into the soup pot they go tomorrow.

I also spread out a rotten large bale of straw (one of the ton sized bales) on a few of the empty beds but I hope the starlings don't scratch it about too much before I can buy some manure on it to help it break down. I can't seem to mulch any beds and keep the birds from scratching any plants out without using bird netting on it. Damn starlings.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Inspecting the lettuces and broad beans

Today was a glorious day, it was beautiful and sunny even though the temperature only got to 13 C but sunny days always seem warmer. Sunny days will get rarer now that winter has hit so I made the best of it while I had it with a heap of weeding and finishing cutting up the poly pipe for the rest of the hoops.

My broad beans have just started to flower (this is 'Longpod) although they are still small. These plants are supposed to be a tall variety but my plants are only dwarf size. They could still grow though.
Oops, as I write this I have been researching them and these are a dwarf, phew.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a packet of 'Gippsland Giant' broad beans which have giant seeds so I am waiting impatiently for these to bear. Unfortunately after I planted the seeds the starlings scratched them all up and I had to replant them. They are just popping up now so I hope I get at least a dozen plants as I guess some seeds were probably eaten by mice while they were above ground. There were not a huge amount in the packet to start with.

I harvested and replanted one bed of yacon, it is here on the left. On the right is a bed of Iceburg lettuces.
I am not growing loose leaf or butterheads again as mu customers don't like them. I will stick with plain, but good Iceburg. I might try the red Iceburg as well later.
I have to admit that I love this old-fashioned lettuce even if it has been thought of as a bit plain. I'm glad it is coming 'back in' again.

I get a real buzz out of watching lettuces head up. I tend to spend a lot of time feeling them (sounds naughty, doesn't it) and just looking at them.

You can't beat a nice, crunchy, sweet lettuce on the plate.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Finally getting my cloches up

The 200m roll of poly pipe arrived today so I started on the first of my shade cloches which I hope will protect the veg beds from frying like last summer.
I still have to order the 50% shadecloth yet but I have time. I am only getting stuff as I can afford it and with each bed cover going to cost around $35 (including the shadecloth) it will take until they are needed when the weather heats up to get a fair proportion of the total beds covered.

I have here a 200m roll of high pressure 3/4 inch poly pipe and  a 7m sheet of weldmesh. I didn't go with 'normal' poly which would have been only half the price because it is too soft and will not be able to hold the shadecloth up, especially when it it hot and soft. Weldmesh is made for making sheep yards but has heaps of uses around the garden - from tomato cages to trellises.

 The weldmesh will be cut up to make stakes to hold the hoops

This was enough to make hoops for 16 beds.

I cut the weldmesh so there is a crosspiece to make it harder for the pipe to move. Half goes in the ground and the pipe goes over the other half.

After cutting the pipe into 2.5m lengths which made the hoops around 1m tall which is big enough to provide enough still air for insulation from the heat as well as small enough that they won't buckle when hot. They are also tall enough to cope with the size of brassicas.

The hoops are set 1m apart so I need 5 hoops for each 4m bed.

They are fairly stable but I still probably need to make something to attach all the hoops together so they don't fall over in wind.

I can't afford to have to start almost from scratch again like this year so I hope that shading most of the beds will allow me to grow veg all through the summer.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Choosing mangel wurzels for seedstock

One of the jobs for today was to pull up my bed of Geante Blanch (Giant white) mangel wurzels and choose the best to replant for seed.
Before I start I have to say that my sister who reads my posts every day, and who gives me s**t if I miss a day has insisted that I take more 'selfies' when I am out taking photos. The photos of me here are a bit wonky because the post I put them on didn't have a flat top. Well... at least I made an effort, lol.

 This was not a large bed, it just had my seedstock in it so I didn't have to have a whole lot of plants.
I pulled them up so I could choose the best plants to replant for seed. If you don't cull heavily you end up collecting seed from plants you don't want and they just pass their bad genes onto their offspring.

My perfect mangels would have these traits:
1, Large, well formed roots with no forking or undue hairiness
2, Lots of leaves. These beets are duel purpose and I want them to continue to be good for forage as well as for the kitchen.
3, No tough core
4, Sweet and tender with no bitter aftertaste
5, Sweet and tender leaves

First I threw away any root that was not up to scratch as far as size and shape are concerned. I plant closely but all seedlings had the same conditions so any that were too small from overcrowding went as they obviously didn't grow as fast as the others before being crowded.

I took a core sample from each root with a knife to check it for taste and hard core and found to my joy that although they had small variations in tenderness, none had a hard core.

Then I tasted the leaves for bitterness. The thing I hate about most beet greens is the bitter aftertaste.

Even if a beet had a perfect looking root it is no good if it doesn't taste good.

One plant I rejected had a good root but very curled leaves (naturally, not from insect attack). I usually like to play with plants that show unusual traits but this trait would give any insects a good hiding place which I don't want.

 I was lucky to find three plants that ticked all the boxes and ended up replanting 32 beets which were as close as I could get to perfect. When they start to flower I will uproot any early bolters and will probably end up with around 25 plants for seed.

After replanting them I took all the cut-off leaves (on the side of the picture) and threw them back on the bed for mulch.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Replanting my oca early

Usually when I dig my oca I leave the replanting tubers in pots in my shadehouse till it is time to plant them in spring. It works well but it is often difficult to judge the amount of tubers I will be planting and how many to sell.

While I was out weeding a few beds in J block today I decided to do something different this year. Since we don't get the cold that many other countries get in winter and out soil doesn't freeze hard I replanted the oca tubers in beds that already have veggies in them. This means that I will know exactly how many beds to put in and definitely have enough tubers.

This is a bed of young 'Purple Peacock' broccoli.

I spaced the tubers out with normal spacing and put them in a few inches to wait till they are ready to sprout in spring. Of course I would not do this if the beds get too wet or waterlogged over the winter but this block has a slope and good drainage.

 The oca all in bed

When the broccoli is ready to harvest it won't be long till the weather warms up so I can either cut of the stalks and wait for the oca or maybe leave the broccoli in the ground and keep harvesting while they offer shade to the oca. I might leave a bed like that just to see how it goes.

Of course I have kept a kilo of tubers back just in case. You should always have a back-up when you try something new and I can't go without another oca harvest. My customers are already disappointed that they had no tubers to eat this year.

Another thing, I wrote about my Cholcolate vines last week but after some time to read and think about it I pulled them out as it is just too much of a risk that they would get out of control in this climate and I can't afford that on someone elses land.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Visiting and being lazy

Sorry, no pictures again today - yeah I know, I will have to pull my finger out.

It was rainy again so I decided to go and visit some people who I met a couple of months ago. They live at Heywood and are trying to live as self-sustainably as possible. I wish I had taken my camera as they had a koala sitting in a tree not far from the ground, then at least you would get to see some sort of result of my visit, lol.

Anyway, we found that we had much more in common than we thought and I had a delightful visit checking out their little place and all their veggies and fruit. We sat indoors most of the time and listened to the rain on the roof, and talked, and talked. I really enjoyed it. I was even lent a few books to read, luckily as there is nothing thought provoking to watch on TV at the moment.

Then I came home to find out that had been fine and sunny here from the time I left. Oh well, I don't regret the day and hope to catch up with my new friends again soon. I love what they are doing with their place and hope to get some pics next time.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sorting my Salsify

I had a bed of salsify ready to dig to put in my veggie boxes, only one bed that was sown before summer. It was too hot to germinate any over the summer so my customers will have to wait a bit longer if they want more.

I like salsify but not nearly as much as scorzonera (also called black salsify) but I only have one bed of scorzonera also so my customers will have to wait till the end of the month to taste that.
Salsify tastes like artichoke and is best peeled then baked with butter or garlic, then mashed if desired.

Anyway, I dug up the bed and was annoyed to find that most of the roots were unusable. They were so forked and misshapen that I had to throw them away.
It was such a pity but at least I managed to get enough usable roots to give all my customers a good bunch.

I don't know what happened as I grew them in loose dirt that wasn't too fertile.

Here are an example of the roots I ended up with. I divided the roots into three piles. The first pile were good roots that I replanted for seed.

The  middle pile was roots that could be used with a bit of tidying up and pulling off side roots. These went to my customers.

The last pile was roots that I had to throw away.

I ended up with about 70% unusable roots and most of the rest to sell.

I replanted the best and cleanest roots in the hope that they would produce seed leading to better roots. Of course this will take a couple more years of selecting.
I only had 10 good roots which is too small an example for breeding but I have a couple of other young beds to select from later when they are dug so I should have enough for breeding by flowering time.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Look at my Murnong

I hadn't looked at them for a couple of days and I got a pleasant surprise when I went out and found that a pot of murnong seed was germinating.

Murnong (Microceris lanceolata) is an Australian native plant also called Yam Daisy. The tubers were a staple food for local Aborigines in Southern Australia before European settlement. Unfortunately the sheep and rabbits that the settlers brought with them were very fond of the yam daisy and ate them nearly to extinction.

The tubers are very pleasant when roasted or boiled and I will be growing a lot of them in the future.

I have not grown them before from seed, not only because it is difficult to get seeds, but because I always read that they were difficult to germinate but I believe not that most people either used old seed or tried at the wrong time of the year.
They must be germinated in cool weather such as late autumn or winter.

These seeds came off my own plants that I bought as tubestock last year. Now that I know that they will germinate readily I will put in another couple of pots of them tomorrow.

Here is a picture of my yellow cherry guava. I am not fond of the red ones as they have very hard seeds and have a resinous aftertaste. It won't be long till the fruit is ripe and I will try to grow some seeds.

I love the yellow ones much better for three reasons:
1, they fruit for a longer time of the year
2, the fruits are bigger and much sweeter and tastier
3, The yellow ones have much softer seeds so they are more pleasant to eat.

My one plant is only a metre tall and I am waiting impatiently for a warm spring to get it growing strongly.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Stuck inside today

As I type I am loving hearing the rain on the roof. It has been raining all day which is why I have decided to write this post earlier in the day than usual. I am stuck inside and sick of playing cards on the computer.

So... I have no pictures because I can't get outside to do anything constructive. At least this has forced me to get into some paperwork which I am always trying to put off, and sorting out the seeds I will be planting in spring. October, when the frosts stop and it starts to warm up, will come around frighteningly fast, as it always does.

There are a lot of new seeds that I will be trialling in spring such as kurrajong (I did put some in in autumn but they didn't do any good, they all died when it got cold), some native yams and a few new melons and cucumbers for a start.
I love looking through my seeds and I am not the only one, even my sister who just doesn't have a green thumb (not helped by her goats, turkeys and chooks) even told me she loves to do the same.

I have found a new website that I am trying to support called Ripe Near Me ( that asks people to put on any free fruits and veg (including wild apple trees on the side of the road, excess herbs to give away etc) as well as anyone with produce from their gardens to sell. I hope it gets going as it is an interesting idea. It is an Australian site.
I have been meaning to do an audit/catalogue of all the local 'public' or wild fruit trees in the area and this might be an excuse to get off my bum and do it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

What a glorious day

Wow, this was a beautiful day, warm and sunny. I really appreciated it as we may not get many more of these before mid spring.
Robert (my friend who has been visiting to check out my veggie growing) went back to Melbourne today so I got stuck into weeding. It was so nice and peaceful just sitting beside the beds pulling out weeds and I often use weeding as a way to sit and think and the time goes by pretty fast. I did some hoeing of the edges of the beds on J block which tidied them up a lot and made them look at least a bit presentable.

During the afternoon I got into washing the house windows as they had been getting very grubby, so that is another job off my list.

I looked at my yacon and thought about starting to dig them but with the mild weather lately I decided that since they have not completely died down they were still bulking up their tubers so I would leave them for another month. There is no hurry to get them dug up as they don't need to be replanted till spring and where they are they won't get waterlogged when the wet weather comes.

I think I will put in a lot more next year as they are very popular and I think I will be able to sell a lot more tubers. I will put in about quarter of J block into winter tubers as it is no trouble getting rid of them and they are easy to grow. I will have to plan it so all the oca have shadecloth cloches though. My poly pipe to make the cloches for summer is ordered and should be here this week. Now I just have to pay for it and the shadecloth. Money hates staying with me.

I really didn't get anything interesting done today so I have no pictures.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Weeding and other random things

This morning I went with Robert to the river in a bush spot where I like to go to take pictures of native food plants. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures as there were not many things growing yet but it was a good day out as the weather was mild.

We looked around for other things to take pictures of and Robert took some photos of birds while I looked in the nearby pine plantation for edible fungi. We haven't had enough rain yet for most of the fungi to come out but here is one picture that I took of an unknown fungi.

It is not a good picture but I had to come home with something. For some reason the pretty green around the edges of the caps didn't show in the photo.

There is a delicious puffball that I was hoping to get a picture of but I will have to wait till it rains some more I think.

Just to show that I did actually get some work done today, here is a picture of a couple of the small side beds on the back block that were covered with weeds. I spent the afternoon weeding the whole side of the block, well most of it anyway. Most of what I have on this side are onion relatives. I've just got the edges to do and it will look nice and neat. The way the rest of the block looks at the moment it will be the only neat bit there. The weeds are growing faster than the veggies at the moment with the mild weather we have been having.

I have been lucky during the past year as I have been over-run with ladybugs but now that they have disappeared for the winter I see that my purple brussels sprouts are covered with aphids.

 Luckily the plants are just waiting for spring so they can flower so I can afford to wait and see if the aphid problem fixes itself.
If it gets any worst I will have to give them a dose of garlic or soap spray.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Quick trip to the coast

I have a friend staying over for a couple of days as he travels around so I suggested that we take a trip down to the coast so I could take a few pictures for my weekly native foods thread on a forum that I am a part of ( . He was quick to agree because he is an avid photographer himself.

There isn't much happening as far as edible plants, well nice edible fruits, right now in winter, most fruiting plants fruit in summer, but there were a few plants with edible leaves that I could take pics of anyway.

There was not much light left by the time we got there so I didn't get as many pictures as I would have liked but here are a few.

Here is a view from the top of a dune facing the freshwater lake called Lake Mombeong. It is a beautiful large, springfed lake in the middle of nowhere. The vegetation behind the sand dunes is full of edible plants and many native animals. Unfortunately I have also seen many feral cats and foxes here as well.
The sea is behind me.

This is sea parsley. It is a native plant that is related to celery and has a salty celery or parsley taste. It is a bit courser than garden parsley but is used just the same.
 It grows on the sand dunes right next to the sea.
 This plant on the left is Botony Bay Greens. It grows behind the sand dunes all up the Eastern coast of Australia and New Zealand. It is also called Warragal greens or New Zealand Spinach.

I am not fond of the taste because I don't like a lot of greens but it is not too bad steamed or cooked in any way you would cook spinach and most people who like their greens should like this too. It is very common and makes a great alternative green on your plate.

Other natives I will leave for my forum posts but these two plants are some that I have been toying with growing on my blocks.

Tomorrow we will be going to a place near the Glenelg river in the bush so I can get some more photos of different plants. I know I should be spending more time weeding but it is nice to get away and do something else once in a while.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Moving the chocolate vines

A couple of years ago I bought a hybrid chocolate vine (Akebia quinata x A. trifoliata) off Ebay because it looked interesting and different but then I read that they are not self-fertile so I bought another one, Akebia quinata. Soo... they have been sitting in pots hidden in a corner covered with grass and weeds until I could find a place for them.

Today I decided that the poor things needed a bit more care so I heaved them out and cleaned off all the grass. 

I took them over to the fruit block and planted them next to the fence so they had something to climb on. Last year they were too small to fruit but I hope this spring they flower (at the same time) and fruit as I am really interested to see if the hybrid will turn out as tasty as the seller suggests.

They produce purple, sausage shaped fruits in late summer which split open to reveal the edible flesh surrounding the seeds. It is supposed to taste like tapioca pudding by some accounts. The name 'Chocolate vine' is because the flowers are supposed to have a chocolate scent.

If they don't produce fruit I will try buying some of the hybrid seeds and get a few plants that will hopefully pollinate each other easily. First I will have to see if these two plants flower after their replanting shock.

It is supposed to be an aggressive grower so I will have to keep mine in check, especially as they will be growing on another persons property. If they get as invasive as some reports say they will be coming out quick smart.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bye Bye Chak

Didn't get anything done today because I was waiting for the new owners of my donkey Chak to come and pick him up. That is what I hate about winter, there are just not enough daylight hours left if you have a non-farm job to do.

I have had Chak for many years, he was one of my pack donkeys for many years while I was travelling around southern Australia will my pack donkeys. I will miss him but I had to let him go to a new home because I just wasn't looking after him properly.

Chak is the donkey in the middle. His name is short for Chac noh ek - one of the ancient South American gods.
The new owners come from Dereel which is many hours drive from here so he is still on the road. They will let me know when they arrive home.

It was a nice day so I should have been mowing the lawn but that will have to wait a couple of days at is is going to rain tomorrow. I Received some skirrit and rampion seeds in the mail. I decided to try skirrit again but it doesn't grow here in the summer as it is too hot. I am hoping that if I plant them now they will be ready to taste before summer.
I really must stop myself from buying seeds on the internet when I am not outside, it really gets out of hand. It is the worst part, but also the most fun part of winter I think. I also got a male and female Mountain Pepper plant from Tassie today  *slaps credit card holding hand* I already have a female so I can use the leaves but I want to be able to get berries as well. Anyone who has tasted this plant will know how great they are for flavouring, the leaves and berries are very hot and spicy.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Having a go at growing quandong

Today was too drizzly to do much outside so I got stuck into a book called 'The end of food'. It is a good book and quite scary. It tells about the problems with food production and safety especially with big ag.

Anyway this post is about quandongs. I bought a bag of seeds off Ebay after finding out that they are not as difficult to grow as I had always thought. Also, I always thought that they were strictly desert plants but I found out that they also grow naturally in northern Victoria so they should grow here.

Quandongs are a native food plant that produces red, edible fruit that was sought after by Aboriginals but the trees are getting quite scarce in the deserts as they are a favourite food of wild camels.
They are a semi-parasitic small tree which was what had put me off up til now but I found out that they can do without a host for periods and latch onto others around them so you don't have to worry if their main host dies at any time.

I went out and planted some seeds next to some young carob tree seedlings in the fruit block as well as some seeds in pots as you can get them germinated and growing before you need to find them a host. I cracked a few of the hard seeds to see if that will get them germinating sooner.

I hope I get quite a few trees growing as they fruit within only 4 years from seeds and they will be a good treat for my customers, and they are drought tolerant and I am looking for more drought hardy plants for my veggie and fruit blocks.

I am starting to get quite a few native food plants growing. When I build up the numbers and get some fruiting happening I will offer them at markets, and maybe sell plants as well.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Digging Chinese artichokes

I got stuck into harvesting my small patch of Chinese artichokes (also called crosne) today.

Just as I suspected, the summer was not kind to these plants either. They were very sparse in the ground. Next year I will be growing them in much better soil and giving them more water as well as growing them under shadecloth.

Most of the tubers were tiny, only half the size that they should be and too small for eating. At least I will have enough for replanting in the spring, and a few extra to sell.

There were only a few that were 'normal' sized. Not enough to bother with eating so I will replant them.

I like Chinese artichokes even though they don't have a lot of taste. The plants are pretty tough and the tubers sweetish and crunchy, just the thing to add raw to salads or stir-fries. They don't need peeling, luckily, just wash and use.

You just have to be careful because they will spread from underground runners and it is just about impossible to find all the tiny tubers in the dirt. Luckily the plant falls prey to scratching chooks, and it is not a particularly aggressive or large plant so I really don't mind if it spreads a bit.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Breeding red choi

I was a bit miffed last year that I couldn't find an open pollinated red choi so I decided to make my own. It won't be as easy to produce one as with carrots but it shouldn't be too hard to do. All the red choi seed that I found was hybrid and male sterile so I planted some alongside a couple other varieties of choi and this is my first crossbred (F1) generation. I will weed out the male sterile ones when they flower and only do some basic selecting for type in this bed but I will only allow the red ones to flower, the others will be sold in my veg boxes. The vigorous culling and selecting will come in the next generation.
My main problem will be selecting for a stable size as they are a mixture of three different types, all different sizes. I'm not sure what size I will select for yet, I will wait and see which ones appeal to me later.

I have put in three beds of them so I will have plenty to sell as well as save seeds from. I like to save seeds from at least 30 individual plants of brassicas to get a good gene variety though it is not quite so important with hybrids as they are generally gene diverse. I will probably end up with around 50 plants for seed in this bed even though they have not yet been thinned as you can see.

Below is a picture of the damage that Red Legged Earth Mite do to seedlings. They suck the leaves dry and eventually kill the plant. You can see the tiny black pinpricks on the leaves, that is the mites. They are the most numerous at the moment than I have any time I remember.

It was a bit drizzly all day and cold so I didn't get more done than a bit of weeding. A bit lazy of me but at least I did something for the day.
I did pick some radishes and made a couple of jars of radish pickles though. I am not that fond of the taste of radishes so it will be interesting to see what the pickles taste like. I had to pick them as I was turning over the bed, and they would have got too big and split anyway. I put some chook poo on and planted some cabbage seed in there.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Monthly farm report - May 2013

Ok, so this is the first of my 'farm reports' where I will describe the goings on during the month, lessons learned and financial information.

I have decided to do this report including all or most of the usually 'secret' business details so that anyone who decides to start an urban farm/market garden can learn from my mistakes and successes, and learn how slow and difficult it is to start. I know that most businesses would never disclose what I will be writing about each month for many reasons from competitors to privacy concerns but I am committed to helping people start growing food locally and contributing to their communities that I am willing to bare all. Taking some of the power from supermarkets and 'big ag' is important to me and I believe it is healthy for the community as a whole.

To start with I am going to admit that I am very embarrassed to write what I will be writing today, simply because what I have achieved in the past year has been much less than I had envisanged and will seem more of a hobby than a business.
I had thought that I would be starting to make a profit by now and be planning the move to get off government benefits (my first embarrassment) and become a tax payer rather than a tax taker. I have had to revise my plans and hope to be off benefits within the next 6 months. This will happen because I have made plans to cope with next summer by covering many of my veg beds with shadecloth to avoid the problems of last summer so my income will not be disrupted again. I can't afford to not have an income for 6 months if the summers keep being that hot and dry.

Ok, here is the next most embarrassing bit - I have made a profit of a whole $30 this month before wages - I hope to be able to make at least the start of a wage in the next three months, cross fingers. I made a total of $340. Yeah, I know, not what you would expect from a real business. But it looks like I will be able to handle more box customers than I thought so I will be putting up a couple of signs around town to find some, or else I will take some produce to the Mt Gambier market next month.

Goings on:

  • It has not been enough time since I started recording the income from individual beds to report on that.
  • Cancelled my stall at the Hamilton Farmers Market to concentrate on CSA customers. This will cut my income about $200 per month until I can pick up more box customers.
  • Got some surveys back from my customers showing that they are all happy with my boxes.
  • One new customer cancelled as he was not prepared for the variety of unusual produce in his first box
  • Have 5 box customers at the moment
  • Ordered 200m of poly pipe and some 50% shadecloth to cover as many of my beds for the summer as I can afford

Lessons learned this month:

  • I can't keep being too scared to get more box customers simply because I am afraid that I will have another bad season. Hoarding vegetables in their beds is false economy.
  • Red legged earth mite will attack older brassicas if they are stressed by caterpillars.
  • Must get a good washing bay for veg on harvest day if I am going to double my customers.
  • Will be putting up the box prices to $20 per box from september.
  • Customer surveys are very important and useful.
  • Really must put in more root crops for next summer.

Plans for next month:

  • Start on making hoops for as many beds as I can afford, as I can afford the materials.
  • Gain two more box customers
  • Finish digging all the beds in J block. Where the hose won't reach I will plant desert plants.
  • Plant more flowers around the blocks in unused spaces to attract bees and also for some extra income from selling bunches of flowers - chrisanthemums, gladioli and sunflowers (in the spring) to start with.
  • Make a little more profit than this past month.