Monday, March 31, 2014

Flower seedlings and native parsley

Although it was over 30 C today (and it is supposed to get to 34 C tomorrow) I got in from watering early this evening as it was so humid today that the ground didn't dry out much. Surely this has to be the last of the hot days, fingers crossed.

 After reading some interesting posts from some forum friends about their adventures with growing their own bulbous flowers from seed I thought I would give it a go as the opportunities arose.

Here is a pot of seedlings of bearded iris and gladiolus. I have to admit the wait is fun and exciting to see what colours I will get. The bearded iris is stupidly easy to hand pollinate and I grabbed a pod of ripe gladdy seed as I walked past it growing through a fence.
As you will know as you have been reading my blog, I have been planning to add a lot more flowers to my blocks, both to attract pollinating insects and to make them look nice so I have been thinking of planting a lot of flowers that make great cut flowers to sell with the veg at markets. I already have a heap of hippeastrum seedlings that should start flowering next spring/summer as well as some calla lilies, bearded iris and I will buy some gladioli bulbs. That should make a fine and colourful disply.
Maybe I will add some chrisanthemums to the mix as I remember my parents growing a heap in their yard many years ago and selling them at the market for mothers day - they flew out the doors.

I just thought I would mention that Australia has a range of native herbs and spices that I am going to try growing.
Here is a native parsley. The leaves taste exactly like 'normal' parsley and it grows on sand dunes. I picked this plant as a cutting last year and when I can I will go and get some more.
As you can see it is also self pollinating and has a heap of seeds on it. As a perennial shrub I think it will make a good addition to my stuff.

I already have some native pepper plants but when I go over to the other side of Melbourne next I will try and find some native celery that grows in the cool rainforests there. It looks and tastes  like 'normal' celery but smaller and the stems grow in a rosette.

I have tried to grow some of the flavoured myrtles but they just don't go well when frosts get below -1C. I might try them again at some time because they are very useful and smell divine. The three main types are lemon myrtle(backhousia citriodora), aniseed myrtle (Syzygium anisata) and cinnamon myrtle (Backhousia myrtifolia).

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Market day and giant corn

There's not much to talk about today.
I went to the hamilton HIRL market this morning. I like this little market even though the stall prices are atrocious, especialy if you are outside paying the same price as inside stalls but you have to bring your own stiff and be at the mercy of the weather. At every other market I have been to it costs about half to be outside. If the winter is too bad I might have to consider going to the Mt Gambier market instead.

Here is me after selling about half my stuff. I forgot to take the tomatoes which was a bummer but I sold out of almost everything, I didn't have a lot to take in the first place though.

I have a few things left over to take to the Nareen produce swap tomorrow.

On the way back I dropped into the North Boundry Road landscaping supplies because the lady there was asking about selling my plants.
She was very nice and went over her plans and what she hopes to achieve and I think I will pull my stuff from the Ladybug nursery and sell there instead. She is much more flexible and I think I will be able to do better there. I will put some stuff together for her and take them in the middle of next month.

A lady at the market said that they had already got a frost at Hamilton a few days ago so I guess it won't be too long here. My giant Peruvian white corn has been tasselling for two or three weeks but only one plant has put out a female flower. I think it will be too late for the other plants but if I buy more seed for next year I might be able to select for better producing and earlier plants here. It might take a while if I only get one or two early plants a year but it might be interesting to do.

At least I will have one cob to start with this year.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My experiments with 3 sisters planting

In the comments for my last post I was asked about how my experiments with three sisters planting went this season.

I did five beds in various combinations:

1, Corn, snake beans, melon
2, Corn, snow peas, melon
3, Sunflowers, snow peas, carrots
4, Jerusalem artichoke, snake bean, Chinese artichoke
5, Sunflowers, snake beans, mouse melon

I have to admit that every bed was a dismal failure. The taller plants seemed to suck all the nutrients out of the soil around them and the plants under or to the sides of them never grew, they stayed tiny and stunted.
It didn't matter how far away the smaller plants were, if they were anywhere within 1m of the taller plants they were seriously affected. It also did not matter whether the smaller plants were on the sunny or shady sides.
I didn't take any pictures as you can easily imagine what it looks like.

The only good that came out of these plantings are that the dead tall plants (only the sunflowers at the moment) seem to make good things for the snow peas that I am planting now to climb on.

I was really surprised at the results as this is a planting technique that is often quoted online and in books. I am going to plant beds just of one of the taller plants at a time next year just to provide climbing frames for the winter peas after they are dead.

Another technique I played with in a couple of beds was no-dig. I found that this did not get anywhere near the production of the beds that I dig between every one or two crops. Since my digging doesn't seem to adversly affect my soil (maybe because it is so sandy) or the soil animals I will continue to do it.
No dig gardening would be best in my opinion is digging is just too hard such as on clay or stoney soil.

In other news: the weeds are really coming up strongly now so I am spending all morning on my knees weeding, but I also have other jobs to do such as digging new beds and planting all the spring bulbs.

On that note, I did say that I was going to try my new pink shallots roasted as suggested on some sites. Well... I was amazed, the taste of these shallots when roasted or slowly fried is astoundingly good. I love them. They are not strongly oniony but mild and sweet. They are probably too mild to use as an ingredient but cooked and served as a vegetable on their own they are fantastic, even people who are not fussed about onions will like them.
There is no doubt about it now, they will be totally replacing my Golden shallots next year.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Don't you hate it when you forget the tag

Today I was busy out on J Block when I decided to clean a bed ready for reseeding. I was half way through weeding all the young grass out when I realised that some of the larger 'grass' seedlings looked familiar - they were salsify. I remembered then that I had sown salsify seed in there a month or so ago but forgot to put in a tag, I was 'going to get around to it later' *sigh*

 Yesterday I was looking in this pot at the seedlings and wondering what they are. I remember putting some seeds in it in a hurry and thinking I would get a tag later but it never happened. Now I will have to wait a bit longer to see what I planted. Another sigh.

I really have to start wearing my handy waist tool bag again so I always have a tag and pencil ready for these situations. I wonder where I put it?

I must make it a point that I cannot leave a pot or bed without a label, it is too much bother when it doesn't happen.

Today I started dividing my rhubarb. The plants that I grew from commercial seed are such fast growers that they have to be divided every two years or they get too crowded to grow properly.
I made 14 devisions from this two year old plant and I have quite a few more plants to go.

Many of these divisions are being planted by the fence in an out of the way place to grow some new roots then they will be potted up into bags to sell at the local Co-Op shop or at markets.

With the cooler weather and a bit of occasional drizzle they should be ready for sale in a month. These are the fastest growing rhubarb that I have even known, I have two other old varieties of the same age that are not nearly ready to divide yet. I have had to grow new plants of those varieties to sell rather than divisions. Those varieties are 'Victoria' and 'Paragon'. They are both fabulous looking varieties but not nearly so productive.

I will be dividing or replanting all my rhubarb this year which will be a chore but I need to use the space more efficiently so they need to go elsewhere. At least rhubarb is quick to get back into production with a bit of care.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Shallots and stuff

Today I set up a tale at the tiny Henty car boot sale. I go to support a local community activity but I never sell much. It is a fun day anyway and it was nice weather. I never sell much veg there so I just took some melons that wouldn't keep till the Hamilton market next Saturday, and some odds and ends from the garage.

There was a stall selling some herbs and veg and it had a basket of these nice pink shallots.
After comparing them to my skimpy little golden shallots I ended up buying the whole basket.
If they are nice (I kept some for roasting) I think I will drop my goldens for these as they are so much bigger.

When I got home I immediately planted out two beds of them. I will have a lot of shallots when I dig them next summer but at least I haven't planted as many goldens as I did last year.

I have a few beds to dig and resow so I will get onto that tomorrow. I keep looking at my broad bean seeds and itching to get them in. I know it is a few weeks early but it won't hurt. Planting early just means that the plants will be bigger when they ripen their seeds and harder to keep from falling over.

I guess I will have to find another bed for garlic as I was a bit naughty and bought some more from Diggers (Yeah, I don't like them but they have a good range of garlic varieties). I should have slapped my hand before pressing the checkout button. Really, how many varieties of garlic do I need?

I will have to go out tomorrow and see what I will have ready for the market on Saturday. With the white butterflies devitating my brassicas I might have to get some watermelons and pumpkins out of the garage.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Damaging wind and oca seedling update

I woke up to a misty, showery day today, yay, but with it came some gale-force winds which blew over half of my giant Peruvian corn, boo. Oh well, at least we got a bit over half an inch of rain, not a lot but nice anyway. At least I shouldn't have to water for a couple of days as it is also cool, real autumn weather.

This cooler weather and the rain last night and this morning helped the weed seeds to sprout overnight. It is amazing how fast they grow when the weather is right. Yesterday I had clean beds and now they are spotted with clover and grass.

Anyway... here is my update on oca seedlings. Australia only has a couple of varieties of oca and since we can't import tubers the only way to get new varieties is to grow from seed. I bought two packets of seed last spring.

This is my largest seedling from the first batch of seed. I thought I was only able to get one seedling going but I ended up with two (see next picture).

I learned that I need to plant the seed as soon as I get it as maybe more didn't grow because I kept the seed till I thought it was warm enough to plant.

 After my first seedling was growing well I noticed this seedling in the pot below. Obviously a seed washed out of its pot and germinated in the pot where it fell.
This seedling is smaller but it has noticable bigger leaves than normal. I hope this means that the tubers will be bigger too but time will tell.
It should be big enough to tuberise in the frost free weeks we have left.

These are seedlings from the second lot of seeds that I received a couple of months after the first. There is one more plant but I couldn't fit it in the photo. I did get many more germinate but they didn't like being transplanted into bigger pots for some reason and died.

Every seedling is different with different coloured stems. I hope they are big enough to tuberise by frost time but I might have to move them into the poly tunnel to give them more time to grow to size. They are in 15cm pots here to give you an idea of their size.

In the original pot I still have a dozen more seedlings but they are nowhere big enough to tuberise and I don't think they will survive the cold even in the polytunnel, they are still tiny. I will protect them just in case though.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My first experiment with true potato seed

Most people are familiar with buying and planting seed potatoes. These are small potatoes you plant of a particular variety to get more of that variety. I have decided to try growing plants from true potato seed. because potatoes have more than one set of genes you never really know what you will come up with as they are pretty genetically diverse. Plant enough true seed and you are sure to come up with a seedling that is different and good enough to make your own variety.

Because the hot summer made my own potatoes abort their flowers I wasn't able to collect my own seed so I bought a small packet of seed from someone else. This packet of 20 seeds was a Russian variety called 'Asol'. Will my typical heavy handedness I only managed to get 5 seedlings to grow.

Seedling one.
This seedling started to produce tiny tubers almost from the week it germinated. You can see some small tubers at soil level. I am curious to see what is under the soil in a few weeks when the frost kills the top off.
It is currently about 15cm from the base to the top.

Seedling two.
This one is about the size of seedling one but with bigger leaves. No sign of tubers yet but it has time.

Seedling three.
This is a smaller plant with a different leaf type, It will be a close call whether it produces a tuber before the frost. It looks a bit sickly and may not survive.
Maybe it will surprise me and have a tuber under the soil.

Seedling four.
This is the biggest seedling. It is showing no sign of tubers at the soil level but it does have long stolons that can be seen going from the stem into the soil so I think it is tuberising.

Seedling five.
I can't decide yet if this tiny seedling is a natural dwarf or it is just sickly.
It has weird, round leaves and I might baby it along just to see what it grows into if it survives. It looks healthy enough, just very tiny.

Tomorrow I will update my experiment with true oca seeds.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

More on chufa and blog stats

Because I am stupidly curious and impatient I decided to dig up a few sickly, small chufa plants from J Block. These plants are already starting to die off so I figured that they wouldn't make many more tubers anyway. For some reason these plants never really took off like the few I got up in the Back block.

So, I dig them up and was surprised to see the amount of tubers under them. I am really looking forward to getting to the larger plants in a couple of months.

I have put the tubers away for drying so I can replant them in November. Now I know how to grow them properly after a bit of research I will be able to grow heaps as well as provide growing stock for customers.

I am so looking forward to supplying these tubers so people can make their own Horchata, and they can also be ground to a flour. They are delicious for eating raw and cooking with too. They are supposed to be nutritious but I must look up their nutritional values after I finish writing this

Added: I found this source of info:

On another thought, I occasionally check my blog stats to see how many people are reading this blog and am surprised to see that most of my traffic comes from Russia. C'mon people, if you are a reader from Russia please tell me how you came by my blog. I am just interested :)

And to my other readers, let me know what you think, I love comments and to hear about what you are doing with your own food plants. Don't be shy.  /hihi


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Amaranth flowering and silverbeet seedlings

Well things are really powering along with this milder weather so it is a surprise every day when I go out and plants are bigger than I expect every day, they are growing so fast. With about 4 weeks left before the frosts are due I expect plants to be doing their best to get as big as they can before it gets cold.

 My amaranth is all flowering now. I have two beds flowering this year. The plants are not very big because they have been harvested a lot but I hope to get a lot more seed than last year.

These are vegetable amaranth which is grown for the leaves rather than grain which is why the flower heads are a lot smaller than grain amaranth. The seed size and taste is the same but I don't grow grain amaranth because of the pain it is to harvest and clean the seed. Maybe I will sometime though.

I love vegetable amaranth and my customers are now asking for it at the markets. It has a mild taste that appeals to most people and is easy to cook in many ways. Too bad it is frost tender so I can't put more in till spring now.

The beds that I harvested silverbeet seed from are now overrun with seedlings from the dropped seed. I don't mind as this has two advantages, I can see what sort of colours the seed will produce and that the seed is good, and I can sell handfulls of these seedlings at the market with no effort to look after them.
This picture is from the bed I am growing my 'Pastels' range from. It seems that most of the seedlings are a range of pinks but with a few yellows and oranges thrown in.
When some of the seedlings get big enough to take pictures of the leaves I can sell the seeds with a better idea of what my customers will get when they plant them. I have grabbed a handful of seedlings to plant in another bed just for this purpose. I have to sell all these seedlings at the next market as the potatoes I now have in this bed are starting to shoot.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

On making habitat in a market garden

Because I am trying to produce as much as I can of the space I have it is difficult to set aside space for small animal habitat. It is so easy to think that small animals can find space to live somewhere else but if everyone thinks that way they don't stand a chance.

I have tried putting bales of straw around for spiders and other insects to live in but I have found that they are a bit of a pain as they are perfect for mice to breed, but the pumpkins I grew around the bales did well because the bales kept the ground under them moist and cool. I don't think the mouse problem is worth keeping them though.

The thing that got me to make this post is that I have found that my shadecloth covers seem to be providing great shelter for a variety of frogs and lizards, both when the covers are up and when they are down. It is great to water or lift the covers and see frogs (even Pobblebonks which usually live underground) coming out, and skinks everywhere. At least I feel that I can help even if I can't offer some 'wild' area for them.
Without sprays the frogs and lizards have plenty of insects for food so they just need extra shelter and the covers seem to fit the bill.

With the onset of cooler Autumn weather my poor celery are starting to grow well. This is a 'Peppermint stick' variety. The colour of the stems is more like the red varieties but I realise that the colour is better (and the stripes more pronounced) if they are blanched. Maybe I will do that next year.

My green celery have already started to bolt with the heat of summer but I didn't want to be too late planting them. I might just have to buy some more in punnets for winter. I would like to sell bunches of red, yellow and green celery on my stalls. I just wish the red types were not so stringy.

Today, as well as spending most of the day digging new beds and digging up my strawberry patch, I pulled out the spent pumpkin plants and the melons that were too late to fruit. I now have a heap of beds to plant with winter veg. I will sort out what seeds to put in tomorrow. One of the beds will go into stem mustard. This is a new veg for me and it looks so interesting. It will be a real talking point on the tables.

Friday, March 14, 2014

End of the hot weather I hope

It could be just wishful thinking but I am thinking that today might have been the last of the hot weather adn I am looking forward to the harvest of some of the cold weather veggies such as yakon and oca.

Today I picked my meagre harvest of black sweetcorn. The pods are small and not well pollinated but at least I have some seed for next year, same with the multicoloured sweetcorn. I will have to buy some more seed of each to have enough genetic diversity to enable me to continue to collect and then sell seed later, but it is a start. The colours are fun.

The other corns that are yet to ripen are my black glutinous, giant white peruvian and the multi-coloured corn that is either dent or flour, I don't know which kind of corn it is yet.

Today in the mail I got a box of plastic jars for storing my seeds as well as a couple of trout lily (dogs tooth lily) bulbs which I planted out. The bulbs of the trout lily (Erythronium dens canis) is supposed to be tasty though they are very small. I also have a couple of bulbs coming of a slightly bigger variety with bigger bulbs. I am not sure if they will work out to be worth growing with such tiny bulbs.

My melons are suddenly coming ripe all at once which is a bit of a pain as I don't have a market for another two weeks. One bed of Noir Des Carmes all ripened today, they ripen very quickly. That is about 20 melons that I have to eat or find a home for in the next couple of days. These delicious melons just don't keep. Oh well, my block owners will be happy. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Damn horseradish and Chilean guava

With such a beautiful day I got lots of weeding done, the clover seedlings are coming up all over the beds. I also did a little research on chufa after yesterdays post and learned a few important things such as why they didn't shoot well this season and that they hardly ever flower.
I found this bit of research on growing chufa that was very informative:

After getting sick of my horseradish spreading everywhere I decided to grow it in a raised bed this time but I just noticed that it is even escaping from this 3 feet tall bed. You just can't keep this stuff under control.
I will have to decide later whether to keep growing it or it it is going to be too much of a pain in the neck to bother with. It is not like it is a good seller anyway.

I spent some time today feasting on some Chilean guava (Ugni molinae) berries. These are delicious and perfectly ripe just now. I did try to grow some plants out in the orchard block but the summer fried them. I should have known better as I know they prefer shade. I will try again when a couple of the trees grow bigger and can provide some shade.
I think I will put in a few cuttings and wait till they can be planted out as I really want to sell these in punnets.

For the next couple of days it will be hovering around 30C but I am hoping that that is the last of the hot weather for the year and I will be able to get some seeds germinated for winter.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fun zucchini types and chufa in Autumn

If you have keeping up with my blog regularly you might remember that last year I got one 'Golden' zucchini plant with fruit that was a different shape which I saved seeds from to try and breed a new variety with that shape. I grew 5 plants from that plant and every plant has a different fruit and leaf colour/shape. I have no idea what genes got mixed into that one plant but I have been having fun with its seeds this year.

Out of the 5 plants I chose two that had interesting, and tasty, enough fruit to continue with a fun breeding project.
I have blogged about one of those plants, my very ugly fruited one that I am considering calling "Butt Ugly', and this one which is half yellow and half blue.

I will keep the seeds separate and try to stabilize them so the fruit is consistent. Honestly, I don't have enough sensibility of taste to tell the difference between zucchini varieties, they all taste the same to me so as long as they taste and cook the same as the others I will be happy to concentrate of the fruit colour and shape as well as plant toughness.

I had a terrible time getting the chufa to shoot so I was happy to get 6 plants in each of the two beds I planted them in this year. The ones grown under shadecloth are doing very well, they are big, bushy and healthy but the ones out in the sun are piddly little things.

I was surprised to note that they don't look like they will flower in this climate, which may be a good thing. There is no sign of any flower spikes so far. I understand that in cooler, shadier conditions that it won't flower but with our hot summer I thought it would.

I dug up and ate a little tuber a few days ago and it was very good, I can't wait to try Horchata (a traditional drink made with the ground tubers mixed with water, sugar and cinnamon, ) if I get enough to eat. I really hope they do better next year as I think they will be a popular food plant when better known.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Giant corn

I bought and planted a small packet of 15 seeds of Peruvian giant white sweetcorn in November and they are just starting to flower now. This, and my black waxy corn, were the only varieties of corn to do any good this year

 These are 3 metres tall, a bit smaller than the packet suggests they grow but I am happy with their size especially considering the poor growing year. I was expecting them to blow over in the high winds we had a while ago but they took it in their stride.

With their long growing season I half expected that I wouldn't get any ripe cobs from them but it looks like I might just get them in on time before the first frosts.

These are the male flowers. I can just see a couple of female ones popping out of the stems so it won't be long and I hope I get a few good cobs from them. This experiment seems to be working so I might buy some more seeds to plant with the ones I get off these plants and grow a couple of beds next spring..

With the other sorts of colourful corn I will grow next year I think I will have a nice display on my market stalls.

I always swear not to grow corn as it is so wasteful of space and time but if I grow some ornamental sweetcorn I will at least be able to get my money back selling seeds as well as having a talking point wherever I go.

 I have noticed lately that the cobs on my waxy (glutinous) corn are growing to fast to be contained in their husks. Although this is interesting and I can see the kernels growing it is leaving them open to being preyed upon by harlequin beetles which are giving them a severe battering.

I generally don't have much of a problem with these beetles but I notice that their numbers are up this year and they are ruining a lot of my tomatoes.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Tiny Tim and Autumn garlic

Since I am being hassled for my opinion on my Tiny Tim tomato I thought I had better get to it, lol.

I was actually pleasantly surprised when I bit into this little tomato. Reviews tend to put this tomato in the novelty department, probably where it belongs to be honest, but I found it better than usually talked about.

The taste is very mild but a mixture of sweet and sour with the sweet hanging on in the mouth for long after the fruit is eaten. It is very unusual and interesting with a taste I haven't come across before so I will give it a go next year.
I am going to have to ignore other peoples reviews of tomatoes as they tend to change flavour depending on the soil and growing conditions so I will just comment on my own experiences and you will have to try for yourself.

I always think it only feels like autumn when the garlic starts shooting. Of course my Purple Monaro is always earlier than all the others but it makes me smile every year when I see the bare beds come alive.

I have said it before, but this is by far my favourite garlic. It always makes huge bulbs and is ready early, well before anyone elses garlic is ready. Every time you dig it you feel like a great gardener.

Today I popped in to the Merino produce swap and come home with a couple of dozen eggs and some baked goods. There wasn't many people there, only about 20 or so but that was because there is so much happening this weekend, being a long weekend. It should be busier next month.

Tomorrow I will be setting up a table at the tiny Sandford market. I like to support it because it is a great community get-together but I don't make any profit there.

I have been selling my produce in smaller bunches for less and it is working. People were complaining that my bunches were too big and they were wasting too much. This area is mostly singles and couples so they don't want a lot of everything.
It has been working so well that I will keep on doing this. I am making a little more money doing it too. I was selling a large bunch of something (Maybe silverbeet, for example) for $3 and now it is half sized bunches for $2 each. Everyone can afford a coin and it doesn't seem much, and people can get more variety for their $10.

So far I have been experimenting with this new pricing structure for a month, at each of my regular markets, and everyone is happy with it, even at Hamilton where there are more families shopping.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tiny Tim tomato and clean blocks

Another beautiful day for working so I got busy digging and planting. I planted out my saffron bulbs and some seeds, just waiting on some more plants from Ebay now. I should dig some more beds down the back of J block but I have been too lazy up til now. I will have to get off my butt soon though 'cause in a few months it will be too wet to do it easily.
I decided to buy some Dogs Tooth lily plants on Ebay as I read that the tubers/bulbs are edible and tasty. I am starting to run out of easily accessable new plants to try :(  but I also bought some new Asian vegetable seeds which I can't think of the name of at the moment after reading about it on a Facebook post.

I planted out a single Tiny Tim tomato this season. I really wasn't going to but I had one come up and I didn't want to waste it. The reviews of the taste aren't terrific but I have to admit the tiny birds nest-like plant is cute.
This first tomato should be ripe for tasting tomorrow so I will see if it will be worth planting next year.

Sorry about the picture, I didn't realise that the reason my last few pictures have been blurry was because I had the manual focus on. It is fixed now so you won't get a headache from looking at my pictures now.

At last my blocks are looking clean and tidy. I have pulled out all the plants that I have collected seeds off and it will be a while before the weeds start growing. I am enjoying it but it is a pity that any visitors I get will wait now till the blocks look awful again.

It won't last but I have a few weeks at least till we get a hint of rain that will make the weeds grow. Everything is so dry but at least I have town water, it is expensive but I can keep things alive over the summer. I have to admit that I have it better than some people who have to rely on tank water so they have none spare for a garden.


Look, I found out how to put some emoticon thingys on the blog!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Aphids and melons

It was a beautiful, cool day today so I got a heap of work done. I separated and replanted the rest of my allium beds - walking onions, golden shallots and perennial leeks. I think I will put some of the left overs on Ebay to get rid of them.

I planted some saffron bulbs which I am trying again after killing the first lot I planted last year. They didn't like the sandy soil combined with the heat I think. I also cleaned up a few empty beds ready for fresh planting.

I noticed today that my two beds of young kohlrabi are heavily infested with aphids. I would like to wait for ladybugs to deal with them but I haven't seen any around so I might have to give them a dose of pyrethrum spray.

I don't usually have an aphid problem at this time of the year so it caught me by surprise.

One of my favourite melons is Noir Des Carmes but because of the fruits dark skin they sunburn VERY easily. Some of the fruits have developed outside the shadecloth cover so I covered them over the past few hot days with pumpkin leaves which seems to have worked. Even days of only 25 C can burn these melons.
Last year I made wire and cardboard covers for the individual melons but I couldn't be bothered going over to J block to get them and the leaves worked well as very temporary covers.

They should be starting to ripen in the next week or so. I am already picking a few other melons - 'Apple' and 'Cream of Sascatchewan' watermelon. I can't wait til spring and I try for another big melon season. I probably won't bother with 50 varieties like I did last year but maybe 30 or so might satisfy me.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Seedling stuff

Today at 35 C was a bit hot to more than just the watering in the morning and evening so I just printed out some seed labels to packet up some seeds tomorrow. I have been selling seeds so fast lately that I am having trouble keeping up. I really have to start saving more from each patch.

I was checking out some of my tender seedlings in my little shadehouse while I watered.

These are some of the oca seedlings that I have growing. I managed to get about 20 seeds germinated but many of them died when I pricked them out into bigger pots. I was obviously not careful enough.

The 8 or so that are growing are still only about 10cm tall which is not big enough for them to produce tubers. Since it should be another month before the frosts start I hope they will get to the 20-25cm that they need to be big enough to tuberise. I do have 2 seedlings from the first batch of seeds that are big enough though.

If these don't grow fast I will have to put them in the polytunnel and hope for the best.

I tried some true potato seed this season as an experiment. I got a few seedlings up but only 5 survived the pricking out - yeah, I will have to be more patient and careful, lol. Because potatoes have polyploidi (they have more than one set of genes) there is a lot of variations in seedlings, which makes it hard to set traits but fun to find surprises. I can already see that there are three different leaf types in these five seedlings.

I also hope these will be big enough before the frosts to tuberise.

The summer was too hot for my own potatoes to set seed, the heat makes them abort their flowers and seed pods, so I had to buy in some seed. Maybe later in the year I can harvest some true seed from my coloured varieties of potatoes.

Luckily we are getting a few cool days before it heats up again so I will get some digging done tomorrow.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Bamboozled by Bambara beans

Many of you will have followed my adventures with Bambara beans and here is this seasons last installment.

From the beginning: After having a hard time getting them and at an extraordinary cost I finally managed to get 8 beans. Of those eight I only managed to grow 4 plants.

These plants were always sickly and tiny, not getting above 10cm in height so I have been worried about them all along as I doubt I will be able to get more seeds unless I can find a friend who can help.
Anyway, these 4 plants started flowering well a few weeks ago and I had high hopes of getting some seed.

This morning, as I noticed that the plants had died down I did a bit of a scrabble at the bases in the hope of finding some pods. Yay, there was one pod per plant, not a lot but better than nothing. With the number of flowers I really did expect more though. Four seeds to replace the four plants. Note that the green plant in the first picture is a small skirrit plant, not the Bambara bean which was in front of it, you can see the dry leaf stalks of the bean behind my hand..

At least I have a bit more experience in growing them now and I hope that these precious few seeds will make some better plants next year and a whole lot more pods. Luckily these plants are self pollinating, lol.

Bamabara beans (Vigna subterranea) love poor soil and are drought and high temperature tolerant and also very nutritious so I hope I can get them growing next year as they will be perfect for some of the dryer spaces in my blocks. They are native to West Africa and develop their pods under the ground like peanuts. As they are a legume they also add nitrogen to the soil.  

In other news, I finely harvested my first watermelon today, it was delicious and oh so juicy. It was a 'White Wonder' which has white flesh. I appreciated every mouthful as I have not had much luck with my watermelons this season, like all the summer veg. I never really liked watermelon before I started growing them. Like most veg, home grown ones taste so much better than the supermarket ones and they have more flavour as seedlessness is linked to poor flavour genes which is why your own taste better.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sorting the sorghum

This year I grew, or tried to grow 4 varieties of sorghum. Sorghum tends to be a forgotten garden grain that really should be better known. They are more drought tolerent than corn and just as easy to grow in the back yard. The seeds are also easy to grind for flour.
This year was bad for germinating it, just like the corn. My African white (used for syrup and grain) did not germinate at all but luckily I still have some seed from last year.

There are 4 types of sorghum grown for different applications -
Grain, a great alternative to other grains;
Popping, I have not grown this yet;
Broom, Grown to make old fashioned brooms with; and
Sweet, grown for the sweet sap that can be made into syrup for cooking with.

 I was a bit curious about this 'magic' worlds fastest growing sorghum so I bought some seeds to see if it does grow that fast.

Even though this was a bad season for sorghum I did expect that the 5 plants that did grow would have performed better than my others. This is what it looks like today, barely growing, tiny and sick, while the others are putting out seed heads.

 In the same block as the
'Worlds fastest sorghum' is the 6 plants of my broom sorghum that managed to grow.
You can see the long heads that turn into a straw-like head when you strip it so you can make brooms from them. There are instruction on the net for making them into brooms.

I find these fun to grow and luckily I still have some seeds from last year so I can grow them again this coming spring. They are also great for ornamental purposes.

You can see from the third picture of this sorghum that the parrots have already started stripping the seed of them so I have put some mesh over the stalks today.
At least last year they waited till the seed was ripe before starting. Damn parrots.

These next two pictures are of the only variety that germinated properly this season. This is 'Honey Drip', a sorghum used for sweet syrup. This is the first year I have grown it. I usually grow African white instead.

I don't have the equipment to crush the stems to squeeze the sap out so I grow sweet sorghums for seed/grain. African white is great for this use but this variety (Sugar drip) does not seem to have big seed heads so I will have to wait and see if the grains are a good size and whether it will be worth growing again.

When the grains are still soft but maturing it is time to harvest the stems for the sap. I often chew on the sweet stems while I am out in the blocks. Remember to peel them first.

It looks like I will have to cover the bed to stop the parrots from eating all the seeds.
This is a heavy tillering variety which is why the bed looks so crowded.