Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lots of digging and making kefir bread

My new load of compost arrived early this morning so I spent most of the day digging it and water crystals into 10 spare beds so they will be ready for planting. I am a bit tired now from all the digging and dodging plovers.
Practically every back yard in Casterton has a pair of plovers and most of them have chicks running around so the parents swoop on any potential threat they see. Most people spend their time walking around with hats and cursing but I like plovers, they eat lots of bugs and they only hit you if they make an error of judgement while swooping. Yesterday I bent over and one of the pair on my D block flew smack into my behind. I turned and waggled a finger at it and told it that a broken wing wouldn't help it defend its chicks, lol.
Only a couple more weeks and the chicks will be big and there will be no more swooping for another year.

Anyway... I made some sourdough bread with my kefir today. It turned out better than I expected and was delicious. Certainly much better than commercial sourdough and a hundred times better than fake supermarket sourdough. It tasted a bit fruity and sweet but hard to describe, anyway it will not last the night.

I didn't expect much of it but when I took it out of the oven it was risen well and had a nice, hard crust.

I forgot to flour the pan so the base stuck to the pan and I had to leave it behind. Not bad for a non-kneaded little loaf. Boy, it tasted great. I didn't use a recipe but I will tell you how I made it anyway.

Kefir Sourdough

Yesterday before lunch I strained my kefir and after putting the grains back in milk I was left with one cup of thick kefir. I added a tablespoon of sugar and one cup of plain flour to it and let is rise overnight. It smelt good and sour.

This morning when I saw that it was risen and a bit bubbly I added another tablespoon of suger, another cup of flour and some cinnamon and nutmeg and let it sit for another few hours.

This afternoon I just tipped it into a bread/cake tin without punching or kneading and put it in a 200C oven. The mix had not risen a lot so I was not convinced it would rise at all but when the heat struck it, it did. make sure you flour the tin before putting in the soft, sticky dough.

After a bit more than half an hour when it was golden I took it out and cooled it for 10 minutes before cutting and eating it. It could have stood another few minutes in the oven but I like it anyway.

This is definitely something I will be doing with my milk kefir often. It might work with water kefir also.

 I have not had my kefir grains a week yet but I am surprised at the wonderful taste both kinds have. My milk one thickened the milk for the first time yesterday and I expected it to taste very strong and sour but it was just like unsweetened yoghurt. I am not a yoghurt eater but I think I would have eaten this if I wasn't already planning to use it for bread. It was definitely not to strong for me and I might use it on cereal in the future or mixing it with jam or berries.
The water kefir is even better. Tasting a bit like apple juice when not fully fermented but I have been straining off the kefir and adding a piece of uncandied dry ginger to it and leaving it on the bench for a few hours before drinking and it is delicious. I wish I had learnt about kefir years ago.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pulling garlic

It was a beautiful cool day today so I got 6 beds dug and renewed for planting. I am waiting for a load of compost to put on them which should be dropped off tomorrow so I might wait till my new helper comes on monday and give her some planting jobs. I don't want to bore her with just weeding.

I pulled two beds of garlic that were ready three weeks earlier than usual. They were ready to pick so I will renew their beds tomorrow also which will give me more new planting room.

The Monaro Purple garlic is half the size it should be but still much better than I expected them to be considering how sick they have looked since I put them in.
Half the plants died months ago and these that were left were so sick that I wondered if I would get any bulbs off them at all. They didn't even have the energy to put up flower scapes.
I couldn't find the reason for their condition. I thought it might have been nematodes but the roots didn't look knobbly, but I did find a few baby Argentine millipedes among the roots which could have been the problem perhaps.
I only ended up with a bucket of bulbs from the whole bed.

The other bed of white hardnecks were in even worse condition and of those that survived, only a few had decent bulbs, the others had just single cloves.

When I replant them I will put them in one of my other blocks to see if it was the soil but it just seems that this is a bad year for garlic. Even the Elephant garlic has done no good and you know how strong and weedy that is.

The Elephant and other garlic beds are not ready to pull just yet. In a few weeks I will see if they have done any better since they have not died off yet and are putting up scapes. My other garlic varieties are: Elephant, Australian white and an unnamed white softneck.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bambara bean

It was drizzly all day today so I didn't get anything done which leaves me with nothing to talk about but my sister will not be happy if I don't update tonight so I have decided to spend a few minutes on Bambara Beans (Vigna subterranea).

I am trying them for the first time this year as the seeds have been so hard to get even though I have heard that they were trialed at one time in Australia. They are a highly nutritious legume that is called one of the 'lost crops' of Africa. I seem to be collecting quite a few of the lost crops of many countries.

It is a small bush that grows like a peanut in that the seeds develop under the ground like peanuts. They love high temperatures and poor, sandy soils, and don't do well if fertilised which might make them perfect in my blocks.

When they are dry the seeds are very hard and resistant to insect attack and store forever but need a lot of boiling to make them edible which is why people often eat them raw or cooked while they are still immature. They are used in many ways from grinding into flour to snacks and used like dry beans. Apparently the taste is acceptable so they might make a good crop to sell at markets, especially as I could store them to sell in spring when I don't have much else.

I'm hoping that is they cope with a bit of water they could be valuable to put nitrogen in the soil when planted with my melons. Their growth habits should fit together well. I only have half a dozen seeds which are germinating now so I hope they all grow well to provide a good amount of seeds for next year.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Adding organic matter

After the Hamilton market this morning I decided to get busy with my new(ish) pile of commercial compost. I am sick of losing all the goodness quickly in my sand so I am adding two barrow loads to each bed. It is costing me a lot this year but I am sure it will be worth it in the end.

I got two metres of compost delivered for $110 a week ago. I have already done 3 beds by the time I took this photo so it is a fair bit of stuff.
I have found that this compost does not do a great job as a potting mix but it does hold water and that is what I want in my beds.
I would love to have it tested for nutrients but at $200 when I last checked that is just not going to happen.

This is how the beds look before I put on the compost. Just sand. Heah, I know they need a bit of tidying up at the moment.
Don't get me wrong, the organic matter that I have put on these beds in the past means that plants grow well on them but it dries out so quickly and the organic matter disappears fast.

 After digging in a couple of barrow loads of compost into the top 30cm of another bed. Surely it has to do some good at least. Time will tell.
The worst thing about all the digging is cutting up all the worms. I hate seeing worm halves.

I have to go to the Nareen veg swap tomorrow but when I get back I will finish the compost in the back block and on monday I will probably order some for D block because I have some free beds there. It should help with the nematode problem on that block also.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Kefir and markets and not much else

I am a bit embarrassed to go to the market at Hamilton tomorrow with the paltry amount of stuff I have. I remember faking a sickie for the October market last year for the same reason. Everything is either finished or growing with nothing to harvest. I did pick some kale, broad beans, a few bunches of silverbeet and herbs, and I could have picked rhubarb but it has been going so well all year that I am giving it a couple of months rest - it might be all I have to take next month, lol.

I bought some milk and water kefir off Ebay (again) last week and they have both been fermenting away happily on my kitchen counter, well, until my mother gets sick of having it there anyway. I bought both to see which I will like better, and for the health benefits people talk about. Even if I don't like them as they are I can still use either of them to make fermented vegetables and sourdough bread.

It is fun watching them develop. I think the milk kefir is going better at the moment and the water one is still getting used to my water. I expect them both to be multiplying within the next few days.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Seed collecting between rain showers

Well, I decided that my seed collecting couldn't wait any longer or they would be scattering all over the ground. I don't mind volunteers but I do need some seed for other beds.

I had two beds to collect, Michihili cabbage and red choi so I waited till I had an hour without rain to dry them a bit and went out and filled my buchets with pods. Now all I have to do is let them sit in a warm place for a couple of days and then shake and squeeze the seeds out to dry.

There are still a few plants that had green pods so I left them and I will clean and replant the beds later.

I hope my Yautia (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) does better this year. Last summer I didn't look after the plant well but I did manage  to get some offshoots so now I have 4.
I have them planted in a bed with well drained soil and covered with shadecloth so I think they will do well and grow a lot better this summer.
I am really hoping to get to taste some tuber by winter next year.

The other plant I have in the same bed is aracacha, (Arracacia xanthorriza another Peruvian edible) which also has had a hard life. I managed to divide the one plant I had into 4 as well but the earth mites killed two of them so I am really caring for the two plants I have left. I hate molly coddling plants but these are special to me and I want to get a lot growing in the future.

I have quite a collection of South American food plants now, in fact a good selection of many native foods from around the world. If I won tatts I would buy some land and build an edible plant museum/arboretum/whatever so everyone could learn about edible plants of the world and grow them. Oh well, that has been a dream of mine since I was in my 20s but it will never happen. I am a food grower, destined to be poor my whole life, lol.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Welcome rain still brings problems

We have had around 2 1/2 inches of very welcome rain over the past two days. Hopefully I won't have to hand water for at least another two weeks now. But it does bring it's own problems.

The back block is back to being a bog and half the melons and pumpkins I put in two days ago are sitting in their own little puddles. It won't hurt them as long as the water dries up a bit in the next couple of days but I am worried that it will delay their growth a bit.
I do have some plants that are enjoying the wet - the young celery seedlings love it.

My poor maqui berry just couldn't cope with the wet feet over this spring and I think it is done for. I was going to take some cuttings from it but I kept thinking that I could do that any time. Too late now.

Last year it hated the spring wet and I should have moved it then. Something about snoozing and losing I hear, lol.

It is amazing that a few grains of water saving crystals that were hard to see can turn into such large crystals when wet. I just hope they do the job this summer.

I thought I did a good job of burying the crystals but the beds where they were used are covered with them. Looks a bit weird.
I got another packet yesterday and I will dig the crystals into a few more beds tomorrow. It was too wet and miserable today.

I got the test beds planted with silverbeet today. One bed with water crystals and the next without just to see for myself if there is much of a difference in the summer.

It is amazing that down here we are cold and wet while NSW is hot and under dire fire threat. It is a bit frightening that they are having so many fires at this time of year, and it isn't even summer yet.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sorry, no pics today - I have been busy all day and now that I have remembered to pick up my camera it is raining.
Spent all day planting all the melons, pumpkins and other cucurbits as well as sunflowers and Asian cabbage, even my mother came out to help this morning. After planting the all out I am wanting to plant some more of my favourite melons, I just don't have enough room though. There are so many delicious melons that I wish I had a few acres more to plant all the varieties I can, but then again I have to think of the glut and plated of seed that my mother has to put up with in her kitchen later on, she is a very tolerant woman in the autumn. Maybe it is better that I don't have more room.

My blocks are going to look very sunny and happy with the mixed colour sunflowers I am scattering around the beds. I have even planted a couple of bed to sunflowers and melons, with beans to come for a 3 sisters variation.

I have been asked to judge the produce section at our local show next month. It is only a tiny show with a tiny produce section but I have decided to sponser the fruit and veg next year with decent prizemoney and proper judging to make it a bit more professional and to attract more interest. It means that I can't enter my own stuff but it will be worth it anyway.

At my sisters insistence on taking a few selfies with my veg I have bought a new smartphone with a camera on both sides so I will be able to satisfy her sadistic streak - I am not very photogenic. She will owe me for every picture, lol.

Last bit of news, I will be taking my first lot of unusual edible plants to the Ladybug Nursery in Hamilton tomorrow. I hope they like them and want more regularly. I will try to do a bit of promotion for them on Facebook which will help.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Flowers in the veggie patch

I went to the Sandford market today. It was a glorious day, warm but not too hot, and cloudy mostly, you couldn't have asked for a better day.
There were quite a few people there since Sandford was also putting on a community arts and open garden day but most people weren't putting their hands in their pockets. It was a good day out though and I covered my costs.

 This year I am putting in a lot more flowers in my blocks. there are many reasons for this and they don't really include attracting bees as there are many other pollinators around. I am doing it because they look nice and to make my blocks a lot more insect friendly. I might also be able to sell a few bunches of flowers at the markets.

Flowers are underestimated in value in many edible gardens but I have come to understand their worth a lot more in the past couple of years.

This flower is a red pyrethrum. I was given a few seeds some years ago and because I didn't look after them, I ended up with only this single plant. A few months ago I planted it in one of my beds for a bit of colour and I really enjoy walking past it every day.
The spidery looking plant next to it is an American Banana Yucca. I have a few of these but they are not growing very fast so I don't know how long it will take for them to get to fruiting size and age.

One of the flowers I don't want is this onion flower. I don't know why it is but I am just no good at growing onions. I guess that it is because of the wildly fluctuating temperatures we get most of the year. I plant them at the right time for the variety but they still usually flower before producing bulbs. I keep trying and experimenting with different times of the year but the results are always the same.

I only have one bed in at the moment for the house as they are not cost effective to grow for sale and I think I will give up altogether and rely on shallots and perennial leeks instead.

I have just thought as I write this that I might save any that don't bolt and try to breed a landrace onion that is suited to this area. Something to think about anyway.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hot days and artichokes

A couple of hot and dry days have killed off the red legged earth mites early so I am taking advantage of this window before the heat really starts to get all my seedlings out. This is the first year I will be able to put out my melon seedlings without having to keep spraying them to keep them alive.

I usually wait till the volunteer tomatoes and melons start popping up to plant out mine and I was getting a bit worried because they are so late this year but they are finally showing up. Must be the right time for planting. I do tend to get impatient and plant them too early, just for them to ripen in January, when the markets have a break :(   This year I am staggering some of my melon planting so I have plenty of fruit in Feb, hopefully the row covers will protect them from sunburn and I will have plenty to sell.

Everything seems to be late for me this year. Other people around me have been picking their globe artichokes for weeks now but my first ones are just ready to pick. I should have a few to sell at the Hamilton market next Saturday.
Before you remark at the openness of this type, these are seedling stock from an old French variety and do not stay as tight as supermarket artichokes. They taste pretty good though.

I had given up on my Blue Sausage Fruit trees (Decaisnea fargesii) and thought they had given up the ghost during the winter but I see that they have begun to leaf out from the bottom. They are also called 'Dead mans fingers', what a name.
I will be planting them out on Monday so they can grow to a size before winter that they shouldn't get damaged as much by frost.

Please take no notice of the gooseberry cuttings that I popped in the pots. I didn't have another pot to putt hem in and these seemed a good idea at the time, lol.

I will be going to the Sandford market tomorrow. It is only a tiny market and I only go to support a local event, and it is close. The township of Sandford is having an arts festival along with the market so I will be there all day as they have extended the market times for it. Pity I don't have any vegetables harvestable for it so I will take a box of dried gourds from last season and a couple of hundred wall stickers (my standby for markets when I don't have any veg).

It is going to be hot tomorrow, around 29 or so degrees, so I have just finished watering the seedling beds. I was hoping not to have to water for at least another month but Mother Nature has other ideas.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Amazing Alpine Strawberries and garlic surprises

It was a lovely day today and I worked all day since my helpers didn't turn up. Anyway I want to talk about alpine strawberries. I love Alpine Strawberries. Although the fruit is small the plants have a lot going for them:

  • They prefer to grow in shade where not many other food plants like to grow - fernery, South side of a house, under a tree, or like me, in a garden bed with shadecloth cover.
  • They fruit for most of the year, the white ones tend to fruit for longer than the red, nearly all year
  • They are very yummy
  • They don't have runners but self seed readily and form neat clumps
  • Children love looking for ripe fruits, they never get into the house.

I have two beds of alpines, one red and one white. They are such easy going plants that I never tire of growing them. Although I would love to sell punnets of them at the markets they have two downfalls - they are too yummy and I tend to eat all the ones I pick, and they are soft and fragile so are hard to transport.

There are many types/varieties of alpines but I don't know variety names of the two I have, the only one I have tried but didn't like was 'Baron Solemacher'. The berries are small and I didn't like the taste so I pulled out all my BS plants.

One problem I have with garlic most years is this - see the pictures of my garlic below.

The extra shoots coming out the top of my garlic plants are actually the cloves that have started to grow early. The cloves can still be cooked fresh but can't be stored, or I just replant them immediately I pull the parent plants in November.
I have always thought that it was caused by a very wet spring and I still think that is the case but here in these photos the plants are in a raised bed with good drainage so maybe there are more reasons. It generally happens to some plants in all my varieties but these ones here, Monaro Purple, are very prone to it.

If you don't want to replant them you can use them like garlicy chives in your cooking.

My garlic is just sending up flower scapes now. Usually I sell the scapes for cooking at the markets but this year I don't have enough plants so I will be keeping them for bulblets to replant. I made the mistake of planting most of my Monaro Purple in a bed infested with Root Knot Nematode so they are doing really poorly and I won't get much to replant from them. Most of my Elephant garlic rotted in the ground for some reason (this spring was not as wet as last) and my Australian Whites are going well but since it is the first year for them I don't have many.

The only garlic I might have enough to sell are a small unnamed type, and even they aren't looking as good as normal. It seems to be just a bad year for garlic here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

On helpers and weather

The weather was too crappy to do anything today except go around and inspect what needs to be done. I suppose I should have done my paperwork since I spent a lot of the day inside but I only just thought of that now, lol.

As of the time I am writing this my helpers have not arrived or phoned to say they are not coming. I will give them a bit more time before I go and put a black mark against their profile but I will be very shitty if they just don't turn up. Maybe they are driving and didn't realise how far we are from Melbourne, that has happened before.

I was really looking forward to having some help with stuff. Oh well, they could still turn up tonight.

My tomatoes are all popping up and my pumpkins are ready to plant out so that will keep me busy tomorrow. I was expecting another package of water saving crystals today but they will probably come tomorrow now. More work, it never stops in this game. I actually don't mind, it is far better than working for somebody else and I enjoy it. I still get up early in the morning and can't wait to get out and start as soon as the sun rises. I would hate it if one day I wanted to lay in bed a bit longer.

I am refreshed after my winter break so I am looking forward to another 9 months of work and growing food. What more honorable profession could there be?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Trying out rosella

I bought a small packet of rosella seed (Hibiscus sabdariffa) to check it out. I am not sure if it will grow well in this climate but I have to give it a go. The calyxes around the seed pods are used to make drinks and for rosella jam and it used to be very popular in northern Australia many years ago as well as in other parts of the world.

I planted the seeds in a pot outside with the tomatoes (yeah, I know I should have filled the pot but I was too lazy to go and get more potting mix).

After sowing them I did some googling and found that they need a high heat to germinate so they came inside and into the heated seedling box.
They're looking a bit leggy so I have started hardening them off in some better light even though it is still a bit cold for them.

Last night the long range weather forecast said just what I was dreading, this coming summer was going to be at least as bad as the last one. I am so glad I have spent the money on shading my beds and I will be spending more on water holding crystals shortly. It had better pay off, lol.

My dread is that our water table will drop after a few baking summers and the water board will place restrictions. That will harm my business irrepairably unless my plans work. It will end up costing me $45 for each bed eventually to get them all done (not including water and manure) so it is a big cost over hundreds of beds. It is not going to pay for itself soon so there goes my plans of the enterprise paying for itself and my wages for the next year, but at least I can see it doing so, just a bit further off *sigh* it is always just a bit further off.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Micro-habitat bales and more

Apart from some visitors coming over to check out my blocks and attending the Merino produce swap there has not been much going on.

One thing I did learn about during the last week was using straw bales for micro-habitits for spiders. As they break down over time they get inhabited by spiders and other bugs that come out at night to feed on pests and go back during the day.

I will try it for a year with 4 or 6 bales on each block. It can't hurt and I can just dig them in when they have rotted down.

Here is how part of the back block is looking at the moment. I hate it how it looks messier and weedier than it actually is, or are my eyes blinded to realism and when I look at a picture I see it through a visitors eyes? I will have to think on that, hmmm.

In the foreground is the bed where I had my raspberries until they got fried during the summer. I think I will replant some and try to put up some kind of afternoon shade. Unfortunately I don't have a good place with natural afternoon shade where they won't get out of control.

I dug in another bed with water crystals in it for the capsicums, I really hope these things work. I also planted two beds with kurrajong seeds.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Chufa shooting and lots of seedlings

After a lot of time wondering if I have rotted them off by planting them too early my chufa are starting to shoot.
Chufa (Cyperus esculentus var. sativus) are a type of sedge that produces edible bulbs. They are used for a famous drink in many countries called 'Horchata' but can also be used in other recipes, as well as being used for wild animal food and bait for carp fishing (What a useful plant, lol). Various sources say they taste of hazelnuts or coconut so I am looking forward to tasting them. Apparently they are very nutritious and you can even live off them. They can get a bit aggressive as a weed but not as much as its close relative the yellow nutsedge, but I will still have to be careful to keep it under control.

My chufa shoots are about 3cm tall at the moment. I planted them in two beds but they are only shooting in one of the beds. I'm sure they will appear in the other bed any day now. I just have to be careful not to pull them out with the grass as they look a bit similar at this stage.

Here are just a few of my germinating seedlings. I have colourful Vivid Choi and Michelli cabbage in the trays and pumpkins and melons in the tubes.

Another week and many of them should be ready to plant out. You can see that I am really cutting down the numbers of each of my cucurbit varieties but if not all of them survive I will still be able to plant more seeds.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Seed ready to harvest already

Everything I kept over the winter for seed is either flowering or ripening their seed now. Unfortunately with seed ripening at this time of year it is hard to get them dry to pick, and the plants have not set much seed because of the cold and wet.
I don't mind if some plants don't set a lot of seed because I don't have to sell much seed, it is more important to have enough myself, but I have to have some plants flowering now so I can space out varieties flowering to save on the effort of isolating different varieties. It is easier to have one variety of beet flowering now on a particular block and another flowering in summer/autumn on the same block for example, so they don't cross.

 Here is a bed of Giant White kohlrabi flowering now. I love this variety as it doesn't go tough even when large.
Some of the later flowers may have crossed with swedes that have started flowering nearby and I will collect those seeds separately to see what that cross produces, just for my interest.

I will collect the seeds of the swedes but won't sell them as a lot will be crossed. The close planting was a bit of bad planning. Of course, I could have covered the swedes to avoid it but I just didn't get around to it.

My 'Rainbow' silverbeet is about to flower in two beds and today I hoed out all the other beds of silverbeet as they were bolting too. I only need two beds of flowers as they produce so much seed.

I got a great mix of colours from this crossing of colours last year so I am doing it again.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Everything is springing away in spring

With all my melon and pumpkin seedlings coming up in the warm weather we are having at the moment I am going to have lots of work for my helpers in a week or so. I love this time of year when I plan all my melon plantings, even though I am cutting the number of melon varieties to about 30 this year rather than the 51 that I grew last year. I just have too many other things to grow as well so I have to plan my space.

The American Groundnuts are shooting away madly. I am surprised at how much they have spread now that I can see the shoots from last years tubers but luckily they are not a very vigorous or nasty vine so it is just good to take a note of, but I am not worried.

It will be good to see how big the second year tubers get. They are so delicious that I am going to push them next year as a new vegetable.

After buying a couple of iris a few weeks ago I was sent a catalogue by the iris nursery, they also breed new varieties. They are so beautiful that I just can't help myself. I will be putting in an order next week.

My particular interest is dwarf bearded iris that only grow 6-10 inches tall so I have put quite a few of them on the order form and left it out just in case my mother wants to order some too.

I can't get over all the colours, I wish I had enough money to order them all. Of course, where would I put th

Monday, October 7, 2013

Natural vs unnatural

Today I received a 2.5kg parcel of water saving crystals in the post. Although I would like to grow food totally naturally there are a lot of things against a person who wants to do that commercially.

As the climate changes the summers will get hotter and dryers according to forcasts and I just can't afford to not have income for six months of the year (three months of heat and then three months of waiting for things to grow and ripen). I am trying to plan things so I will be using less water and protecting my plants but realistically, it is not going to be all natural.
I have mostly finished making shade covers for my beds and today I spent time digging in the water crystals a spade deep in a number of beds to try and cut down on water. I am using 500g of crystals for each of my 1x4m beds.

It is just a test at this stage with only enough crystals to do 5 beds and I have planned two beds side by side with the same plants but only one bed with crystals just to see if it really will make a difference. If it works I will buy a whole heap more next year.

It will be interesting to see the results over the coming summer.

One thing I am doing more naturally is weaning myself off all chemical fertilisers and pesticides.If things keep going as they are with the earth mites I will have to do something drastic as they have no natural predators that do a good job on them. I have tried ignoring them but the numbers continue to build and I just can't handle the destruction. I will keep using soap sprays over the summer as they will not wash off as quickly as at this time of year but I may need to try a systemic insecticide on one block to see if I can get the numbers down to a manageable number. I would hate to do that but I am running out of options. I just can't keep affording the amount of loss I am getting.

Well that is what I have been thinking today.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Drum planter example

Today I started on a project to show people without much space how much food they can grow on a square metre of ground.

I took one of the common blue drums that farmers get animal feed suppliments, liquids or other stuff in (you can buy them for about $30 or so in the cities if you look on Ebay or Gumtree).

These hold 180 litres and are about 100cm tall I think. They are made of tough, food grade plastic and are usually blue but sometimes other colours.

I used a chisel to jab a hole in the top to get the saw going. I used a small toothed pruning saw to cut off the top and place holes in the sides for the plants.

 This is the drum with the top off and holes (21 in all) in the side.

There are two ways to make this planter:
1, cut out the bottom also to let the water drain and worms get in (you can fit in another row of holes this way, or
2, as I have done, leave space at the bottom to hold water to make a wicking planter.

Tomorrow I will pop around to the garden supply place and get a barrow load of gravel to place in the bottom.
Then I will place a piece of polypipe in it so I can fill up the bottom with water. On the gravel I will lay some shadecloth then fill up the drum with potting mix, rotten straw and manure.

I will plant carrots in the top and lettuce and strawberries in the holes.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

3 sisters planting

Today I was cleaning up a heap of beds for my corn and sorghum. I have decided to make my space a bit more efficient by doing some 3 sisters style plantings. Apart from the usual corn/beans/squash or pumpkin beds I will also be trying out sunflower/snowpea/melon and yacon/American groundnut and other variations.
I am a bit disappointed that I can't use sorghum in this kind of planting as the roots of sorghum give off a chemical that suppresses other plants growing under them - great for weed control but limiting for diversity.

I am going to grow a lot more sorghum this year as I have just gone halves with someone in a little hand grain mill. I just have to try and keep the parrots off them as they decimated them last year. I have been thinking about getting a cane press for the syrup but that cost may have to wait another year.

I have a heap of different coloured sweetcorn varieties this year. So much for not bothering with corn, but it is so pretty and if I can also use the same beds for other edibles it is not to bad of a waste of space and I just couldn't resist the seed. I am looking forward to the end result already. Unfortunately you eat the coloured swetcorn too early for the colour to develop but you can still cook with them when mature and they are so decorative also.

I have also been putting some more seed in trays to plant out today and some will be reading for my helpers to do the work when they get here, lol.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Checking out my finger limes

I got another finger lime in the mail today (I really have to recommend aussiefingerlimesinternational on Ebay as the tree I received was very healthy and superb quality).

Not many people realise that we have many native citrus species in Australia and finger limes are really getting a lot of attention lately. The great thing about the fruit is that they come in many colours - green, pink, red, purple, yellow and black. The fruit is as big as your finger and the inside is filled with flesh that is made up of tiny globules called 'citrus caviar'. Often the skin and flesh are different colours. The flesh tastes like limes and they are perfect for garnishing.

I have half a dozen finger limes and a desert lime at the moment. All my trees are small at the moment but because most are grafted three of them are flowering and fruiting, including the one I got in the mail today.

 This is the tree I got today. It is a green fruited type with green flesh. It already has half a dozen immature fruits on it and a few that fell off in the box.

Here is a closer picture of the fruit.

Here is one of my sickly seedlings. Although they look really bad they should come away when the weather warms up. Because they are seedlings I don't know what colour the fruit will be in a couple of years.

This is my 'Rainforest Pearl', it is a pink variety but it doesn't have particularly good reviews. The flower buds are just about to open so later in summer I will find out if the fruit is ok or not.

This is my desert lime. The fruits are smaller and round and I am not sure of the taste. I think I can see tiny flower buds forming when I look close.

This is a grafted one with pink fruit. I don't think it is 'Rainforest Pearl' but I will find out later. The flowers are almost finished and small fruits are forming.

As the fruits are sold for $2 - $3 each at the markets in Melbourne I am excited to harvest them for sale in a couple of years.

I also have a pot with some seeds just germinating now.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Whew, running around all day

This morning was all used up with a trip to Mt Gambier to drop of some chocolate mint plants and buying another mattress for my helpers when they come. The bedding for the helpers was not as comfortable as I would like, and my mother has borrowed the electric blanket and won't give it back so I have to get some more warm bedding.
The, of course, was the obligitory stop at Bunnings to buy things I don't need (soaker hose, seedlings, sprayer). My van would never forgive me if we forgot to go in there, in fact it is hard to stop it from going there by itself, lol.

When I got home I just had time to go around and inspect all the block when a customer came and wanted a heap of veg, and after a cup of tea it was too late to get anything done.

So although it was a busy day, there is not really much of interest to report.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Spring ramblings

It was a cold and rainy day today so I didn't get anything done besides sow a heap of melon and pumpkin seeds in tubes. Everything is swampy which is normal for this time of year but it will dry out quickly come November so I have to get a lot of seed sown this month so it has a good root system by then.

Last year a planted a few (6) Chinese yam (Dioscorea opposita) plants in two of my raised beds. The summer was so hot and dry that they died off before getting a few inches tall so I thought they were dead. I planted my horseradish in one of the beds a couple of months ago.
A few minutes ago when I took the camera out to take todays pictures I was surprised to see three healthy and vigorous shoots from the yams so with a bit of shade this summer I think I will finally get some food from them.

 I have been tinkering with some edible garden ornamentals over the past year. I was not impressed with eating dahlia tubers, cannas were a bit better, the tigridia seeds never came up so I am left with these Brodiaea (Queen Fabiola) flowers.
The bulbs are supposed to be tasty but very small. I am impressed by the way they produce so many offsets at the base so the small bulbs may not be too much of a problem after all.
It is native to North America but planted in gardens all over the world. They can join my other US food plants. I can't wait to eat them.

Please ignore the weeds, they will be pulled tomorrow. My winter dormant rhubarb is showing strong growth now as it comes out of dormancy. Just in time to give the winter bearing plants a well earned rest.