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 )

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.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Late update and visiting

Sorry I have not posted for a few days. I took the gift of these last few cool days to go and visit my sister before the hot weather hits. Looks like it was just in time as it is predicted to start getting over 30C from wednesday on.

My sister, who is a confirmed black thumb managed to grow some assorted colour beetroot and picked it while I was there. She was so excited at managing to grow some vegetables that she cooked and peeled them (shown) and diced and added pickle to make jars of them for Christmas presents.

She did manage to grow some a few months ago but after cooking them and leaving to cool on the bench her strange cats got in and ate the whole pot of beets. Weird!!!

I suppose it would be a lot easier for her if she didn't have goats, turkeys, ducks, chooks and dogs that also love to 'help' her grow and taste test her veg. And with the horrible soil she has I am astounded that she even got anything grown.

I suppose she will growl at me if I didn't also mention that she did also manage a few pea plants and a bit of parsley behind a fence. You would have laughed if you had seen her attempt to grow peas last year. She planted them in tins and hung them on the clothes line. It looked so funny but it did work, well, until one of the goats worked out how to stretch up there and pull them down. I did actually take a picture of the pots and plants creeping over the clothesline but I just can't find it now.

I went and inspected the blocks when I got back today and everything is looking great. I am going to replant a heap of melon seed tomorrow as many died from the cool weather but that is fine as they will still have plenty of time to ripen. I am safe to plant most cucurbits til Christmas here.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Aimee gone, now I am over-run with helpers

We said goodbye to Aimee today and I have been getting offers every day from other helpers. I made a boo boo, I had the two best potential helpers email to ask to come right now and I said yes to both, accidentally getting them mixed up and the one I said yes to first I have had to email back and ask if he can come after Christmas as I can't feed and house two at he same time.
Both of them are eager to learn urban farming as they both have projects they are interested in starting. I don't have a heap of work but I won't turn anyone away who is eager to learn.

I have beans popping up all over the place now with the weather becoming a bit more stable. These are my 'blue speckled tepary' beans. They are supposed to be drought and heat tolerant so should be good in our summers. Reviews say that they are very tasty as dry beans.

My walking onions are going gangbusters and producing topsets all over the place, some are four stories tall now. I seem to be getting quite a collection of aliums, I don't know why. I just pick them up everywhere I go and I have a whole 1/3 of the Back block made up of beds of different ones now.

I think I have enough now and I have to force myself to say no to more gifts of onion types. I already have a heap of types of garlic, chives, onions, etc. and I don't use them. I hope they will sell at markets. At least the beds on that side are small and I am not wasting that much room on them.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Casterton show

Today I did my first stint as judge for the produce at the Casterton show. The produce was pretty good quality this year, well, good for a little country show. They are going to get a shake up next year with guidelines and more prizemoney, and I will be judging again. Last year I was the steward so I got a handle on how things go which made it a lot easier.

I'm hoping that better prizemoney and standards will make people a bit keener to grow and enter their stuff as they will know exactly what is expected as well making it worthwhile to grow some veg just for the show. The show secretary seems very keen to have me shake things up a bit so I hope it works.

I think the eggs are the hardest to judge as they all look the same when the exhibitors choose their eggs well. How do you choose from the 4 best and most uniform dozen eggs? Oh well, I think everyone will be happy with the job I did.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Weeding, garlic and general chatter

Although cool, it was a great day for weeding so Aimee and I did that the whole morning. Everything is looking much neater now over at J Block and I am very happy at how things are looking right now.

Before going to look at the touristy spots around town this afternoon Aimee sat down to make a garlic braid after I mentioned the technique to her.
I think she did a great job considering that she had never seen one before and had no idea what they were. I left her to it and some minutes later she waved through the window to show me.

I will hang it up in the garage tomorrow.

My poor, abused tamarillos are finally putting out some flowers so I am hopeful for some fruit in the summer. I planted some in the shade of a tree and along a fence to protect them from frosts and it worked, but they still suffered and it shows.

I will have to stake them shortly as they are a bit tall and I think they might get blown over my the next strong wind.

I love tamarillos, they taste like a cross between kiwifruit and passionfruit to me. I will prune my plants hard after fruiting so they branch out for next year and I hope the extra age on them will help them cope with next winter better.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Millipedes and ground cherries

Although I love Groundcherries (Cape Gooseberries) they self seed so profusely that they are bordering on being a weed. I am seriously considering not growing them any more but they are popping up all over D Block and it is a shame to pull them all up. I suppose I will give up and put in another bed of them as I hate to waste good food plants.

Now that the weather is warming up a little I am being overrun with groundcherry seedlings all over the place.  Sometimes they look like other vegetable seedlings when young but at least I can tell them apart to pull them out when larger.

The variety I grow is 'Aunt Molly' which in my opinion tastes far better than the others. It has a sweet, fruity taste that is excellent cooked in tarts as well as fresh.

Again, my strawberries are being overrun with baby millipedes. I will go out in the next couple of days to make some traps using solar lights and trays of beer. I have heard that soapy water works as an alternative to beer so I might try that also.

My strawberry plants are doing better and are larger this year so I am able to at least get some to eat when the fruit it held off the ground by the leaves but I barely got any last year.
My other problem with strawberries is a tiny red and black bug that bits the fruit and makes them taste awful. I don't know how I am going to deal with them this year.

I took Aimee for a trip to see some tourist spots around Mt Gambier today. We saw the Blue lake, Valley lakes and Umpherston sinkhole where she got to feed and take photos of one of the resident possums.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Broad beans and seedlings

I had some friends pop over today which is always nice *waves* and while we inspected the blocks they did some valuable taste testing on my broad beans. I don't like beans and always assumed that broad beans all tasted the same but they tasted both my common 'LongPod' and 'Gippsland Giant' varieties raw as we walked and announced that the giants won the taste test by a LONG shot so that variety is all I will be planting next year.
I suppose that if you have never tasted anything else you would be happy with common varieties but now I think they will be cursing me because they will never be able to enjoy those again, lol. I will give them some 'Giant seeds next year.

I usually rely on my mother for most of the taste testing as I don't really like most vegetables - A damning thing to say for someone who loves to grow them, but I think I might have to cultivate some more friends for this job.

The seeds Aimee planted last week are staring to germinate even though the weather is still abnormally cool. I think that abnormal is becoming the new normal.

Here are some Asian cabbage seedlings

And radishes

The other work we got done today was to finish weeding the potato beds and put Seasol on D Block. I am happy with the way everything is looking at the moment and if this cool, damp weather keeps up a bit longer I should have enough vegetables for summer even if it does turn out as hot and dry as they are predicting.

Aimee is only here for a couple more days so I will take her for a drive tomorrow to the the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier for her last sightseeing trip while she is here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Trip to the dentist

I didn't get anything done today as I had to go to Portland to visit a dentist. $300 later and a 200km round trip I am ready to go another 15 years till I have to see another, well I hope.

I visited some friends on the way and on the way back we (Aimee and I) stopped to take a turtle off the road before it got skittled.

It was a bit shy for Aimee but she got her picture and I threw it in the nearby creek to save it from cars. At this time of year they go walkabout and many of them get run over as they travel or when they stop to warm themselves on the bitumen.
Aimee got to see quite a few wild koalas on the way so we had a good day out.

Back to work tomorrow.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Digging garlic

I spent the afternoon digging and replanting most of my garlic. I know most people store their garlic for replanting in the autumn but I prefer to immediately replant it for two reasons:
1, I don't have to wait for beds to become available when I am ready to plant it, and
2, Once I have replanted what I need I know exactly how much I have left to sell so I don't have to worry about accidently selling the lot or having too much stored.

At this time of year we won't be getting any more rain so the cloves won't rot in the ground while they are dormant and I don't have to have the beds completely bare until the cloves start growing in Autumn as I can plant a quick growing crop over them like amaranth or mizuna while there is still some moisture in the soil, and when we do get rain I can also plant that quick crop while the garlic is shooting. The beds end up being bare for only 3 months over summer when I can't get anything to germinate anyway instead of 6 months while I wait for the garlic to shoot in Autumn.
This system has worked for me for the last three years.

 These are the varieties I dug and planted today from the left - un-named with light pink blush to the skin, Monaro Purple, Large white hardneck.

The Monaro purple I dug a few weeks ago but wanted to wait till I decided where I was going to replant it. I had such a bad year for garlic this year that I have made some better beds for them all in J block.

Large white hardneck is a large, pure white skinned bulb which seems to be fairly hardy and with a fairly hot flavour. With a better season the bulbs do get bigger than this.

I love Monaro Purple mostly because of the lovely red/purple colour of the clove skins.
It (usually) has huge bulbs but this year was disappointing. The flavour is warm and spicy.
Although it is a hardneck it has a reputation of storing well.

I am still waiting for the Elephant garlic and a un-named supermarket variety to be ready in a week or two.

All I have to do now is go out and put up the 'DO NOT WATER' signs on the garlic beds and they are good to go

In other news, I have to take a drive to Portland tomorrow for a visit to the dentist. I have been having a bit of trouble with one molar so I have decided to 'man up' and have it seen to. There goes the new tyres for the van for another month *sigh*, oh well, it has to be done as a sore tooth doesn't fix itself when you ignore it.
- Will you be home tomorrow morning Craig?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Merino veg swap and banana bread

After a rainy day yesterday where we didn't get anything done besides filling some seed packets today was quite busy. We went to the Merino veg swap this morning. There wasn't many people there but I still came home with a couple of dozen eggs and a freshly slaughtered and plucked chook.

I made two loaves of kefir banana bread early this morning, one to eat and one to take to the swap. You wouldn't believe how delicious these turned out. I made them just the same as the kefir bread I posted about a few days ago.

They actually rose very well but the one in my hand in this picture was placed in a pan that was too big as I only have one loaf tin. That is why it doesn't look very high. I can't understand why kefir bread recipes all use a raising agent as well as the kefir when it rises perfectly well on its own.

I will be making a lot more bread this way as it is cheap and I am producing enough kefir to make a loaf every day.

I will be getting up very early tomorrow to make another couple of loaves to sell at the Sandford market tomorrow. I really don't have much to take and these loaves are cheap to make so they can supplement the globe artichoke and broad beans that Aimee and I picked this afternoon. I am getting over-run with broad beans. Lucky lots of people like them.
I have planted lots of beans over the last week. Red and green snake beans for fresh eating and a few other sorts for dry beans. I bought some light bean/cucumber mesh off eBay to put up on the fences around D block.

The rain yesterday was most welcome, especially as it is probably the last rain we will have for the next 6 months. It means that I won't have to hand water for a couple more weeks. It always amazes me how quickly plants respond to natural rain. Plants are growing very fast and look great after the almost inch we have received.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Kurrajong seedlings and tripping around

We got stuck into work early today planting a heap of fruit trees and weeding so we were just about finished before lunch. Since we were running a risk of being bored I decided to take Aimee on a drive to the Wannon and Nigretta falls. These are not particularly large waterfalls but the picnic grounds are lovely and it was a great day for a drive. It was also probably the last days to see a reasonable amount of water going over before summer almost dries up the Wannon river.

This is Nigretta falls which is about 7km upriver from Wannon falls. The rocky gorge and river is beautiful at this time of year.

The picnic grounds are great and there are birds always flying around, got to watch out for the ants though. Aimee was surprised at the sight of a small bull-ant which she thought was big, just wait till she gets to see some real big Australian ants.

Here is Wannon falls. It is a bout 45kms from home. Although you can't see it well from the pictures the rocky bed and banks of the river makes a lot of beautiful photo opportunities. I used to love visiting both falls before the council decided to erect better signs and attract more tourists. I love having these places to myself.

My first bed of Kurrajong seedlings are up for the spring. If you haven't read my previous posts on Kurrajong, these are a native tree that has delicious edible taproots when young.
I experimented with trying to grow them in autumn but they didn't make it through the winter, definitely a spring and summer growing crop.
I hope my customers are willing to try them as they are a vegetable that they won't be able to buy anywhere else.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sunny days and Aimee

It was a sunny day today, 26 C and will be warmer tomorrow so we worked in the morning and did a bit more before coming in just now. Aimee is a pleasure to work with and I am so pleased that she has come to help for a couple of weeks.

 Here is Aimee in my little shadehouse where we are choosing plants to be planted in a couple of days when it cools a bit.

We had to water all the fruit trees in pots today so it is time to put them out if I want to save them over the summer. It is a bit late but most of them are frost tender when young so I had no choice. There was a light frost this morning but I hope that is the last for the year.
If I put shadecloth covers on them they should be fine and put out strong roots before the real heat starts.

Aimee insisted that she take a picture of me as well. I am holding a pot of Jerusalem artichokes that should have been planted a month ago.

Monday, November 4, 2013

New helper and lovely days

I am really enjoying these fine and sunny days until the boiling hot weather hits in a month or two. I have little seedlings popping up everywhere.

My new helper Aimee arrived on the bus today and I am looking forward to getting a heap of work done. Tomorrow we start weeding the back block and tidying it up. She is a lovely young woman from Wales and it looks like we will miss her when she goes in two weeks already.

I have had a bit of a toothache for the last week so I plucked up the courage to make a dentist appointment for next week. I usually have to be put out to have any work done on my teeth but I am assured that things are a lot less painful as they used to be so I am going to force myself to sit in the chair for a filling wide awake. First time since I was a teen so they had better not make me regret that, lol.

I didn't get much work done but I will have a few pics tomorrow for you.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

D block doings

I spent a bit of time weeding on D block today. There are a heap of empty beds ready to be filled but as many of the melons and pumpkins that I had already planted a couple of weeks ago have died because of the cool, wet weather I have been waiting a bit longer for the weather to warm up before planting.
Usually October planting works well but the days have been cooler than usual for October so I will be planting out on Tuesday when my new helper who is coming tomorrow has settles in.

D Block is also looking a bit neater than usual but it won't be long till these empty beds are green and growing.
 I have been spending a lot of money on this block filling the beds with compost and water saving crystals and I hope that has the threefold benefit of increasing fertility, holding water in the summer and reducing the population of nematodes.
Only time will tell.

Again I have made the mistake of overplanting due to impatience. I sowed two beds with amaranth over a month ago but since the seed didn't come up (it was too cold)  I then put in silverbeet instead. Today I notice that the amaranth has now come up and I am not sure that both these plants will go well together with their size and vigour.
I will see how they grow together but if I have to I will pull the amaranth out of one block and the silverbeet out of the other.

My Gippsland Giant broadbeans are putting out lots of pods now. They are a bit behind the other broadbeans but that is because they were planted a lot later.
I am hoping for good things from these beans as the plants are very vigorous even with a lot of Earth Mite damage. I think the seeds will sell well and I will feed some to my father who adores them later to see if I will only grow these next year. I will only replace my Longpods if these ones taste as good or better. The pods are certainly nice and big.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Damned starlings and

Have been busy weeding and digging for the past two days so there is not a lot to talk about. I am quite annoyed though because yesterday afternoon I found that the damned starlings had pulled up a whole bed of corn. There was only a couple of plants left and because it was sunny the plants they had pulled up were dry and dead so I couldn't replant them. I didn't buy much seed so these coloured maize seedlings were all I had. I will have to wait till next year and buy more seed now.
Luckily I still have my bed of coloured sweetcorn.

 This is how the back half of the back block is looking at the moment, neater than it has been for many months. With all the new seedlings growing it will look great by Christmas, well, before the summer hits it in full force and kills everything anyway.

The first of my caper seedlings is up. This is one plant I have high hopes for as it loves dry and low fertility soil. I have just the place for them when they are ready to transplant.

I have been putting it off but I have to make a decision in the next few days on what I am going to do with the dozen pots of tubers that I didn't have a place to plant out.
I have pots of oca, Jerusalem artichoke, Chinese artichoke, water chestnuts and more. It would be a shame just to discard them but I am having trouble getting rid of them at markets. People are just not yet ready to plant a lot of veg that they are not familiar with.
Hmmm, might have to find a few out of the way places, that I won't forget to water.