Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wind damage, and determinate vs indeterminate

We always have plenty of gale-force winds here in spring, unfortunately never accompanied by rain though. Today was our first for the season. I usually put down all my bed covers but since it was going to be a hot and drying day I decided to leave them up to give my seedlings a bit of protection for as long as the covers stayed up, and to stop too much drying out of the bare soil.
As you can see, most of the covers ended up being blown down, which I expected.
I make them so they come apart when stressed by wind because if they were rigid they would either break or get blown away, and I don't think the neighbours would appreciate that!
They are very easy and quick to put back up again so it is not a big deal.

I have not put any rat-tail radishes in except for this one bed which is fruiting now. I will have to put another bed in shortly for seed and because they sell well at the markets.
This is a radish that is grown for its tender, edible pods rather than for their roots.
They have a strong radish taste and are great in salads.

Since my last post was so well received I have decided to try and add some 'words of wisdom' to the end of each post. Today I will explain a bit about the difference between determinate and indeterminate as this is a term many people are unfamiliar with.

Determinate vs Indeterminate

Many vegetables have a type of growth that is determined by a certain set of genes. These genes show as bush (determinate) or twining/climbing (indeterminate). But how does this affect you?

Many veg have climbing as well as bush types, these include such plants as beans, squash/pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes and, surprisingly, potatoes.

Determinate: Bush plants tend to grow quickly then fruit in one great flush, then die. This is great if you don't have room for a climbing variety, or you want all the fruit at once for preserving.

Indeterminate: Climbing or twining plants tend to start fruiting later but continue for as long as the plant is alive. This give a smaller amount of fruit at one time, but over a longer time.They generally need the effort of staking or attaching to a fence.

What does this have to do with potatoes? I hear you say. Well you know how it is suggested that you grow them in tall tubs and fill with soil as they grow? This works for indeterminate types which grow new potatoes on the stem as they grow, but bush types don't do this and should not be grown this way. BTW, you only need to hill indeterminate varieties of potato, hilling does nothing for determinate types.

Indeterminate potatoes that can be used with the bin method include many of the old heritage types like Nicola, Purple Congo and Kipfler. It is hard to find details on which varieties are determinate and which aren't.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Silverbeet, spring flowering, and what they don't tell you about growing vegetables

I was rushing around doing all sorts of things today, but still didn't get the lawn mowed. I will have to get that done after the market tomorrow.

 This bed of silverbeet was all bolting so I chopped them out to make way for something else. As soon as they start to bolt the leaves get more bitter so I don't sell them.
These were well grown plants so they will put lots of vegetable matter back into the ground when I chop them up and dig them in on Sunday.

This was a bed of my 'Pastels' mic. A mix of mostly shades of pink, cream and light orange. I dodn't think I will continue to improve or grow this new variety of mine as tests at the markets showed that people much preferred to buy the stronger mix of colours such as 'Rainbow'. Oh well, it was a good experiment.

I love watching the budding up of the fruit trees in spring. It just makes you feel excited ot think of what is to come.

My avocados are covered in flower buds. I am not hopeful of a harvest though since I only have one variety.
If avocado trees with self pollinated fruit are exposed to stress they tend to shed their fruit. My young trees are out in the open so the heat of summer and hot winds will stress them enough to drop any fruit that may form. I must remember to get an 'A' variety next year.

My young finger limes are showing lots of new little pink flower buds. As long as they don't get too many hot windy days I should get a fair crop this year, though they are still little trees.

Quinces have beautiful, showy flowers. I don't know the variety, I just took a cutting from a very old tree in an abandoned orchard a couple of years ago. It will be interesting to see what the fruit turns out like.

What nobody tells you about market gardening

1, Your life will revolve around the weather
2,  A majority of the conversations during your meal time will be about farming. Farm talk will become table talk anytime you are sharing a meal with others.
3, You WILL find random things in your laundry. It's a common thing to find bean seeds rolling around in my pockets, plant tags in the washing machine and weed burrs stuck in my socks (which fall off throughout the house).
4, Your trips out of town usually involve some sort of farm business... Whether you are going by the hardware store or to stop and look at "insert piece of equipment here", you never just go to town without doing some sort of farm business.
5, Weeding never stops. every time you finish weeding a bed and go inside for a cool drink, you come back outside to find the same weeds magically covering that bed again.
6, The more valuable the crop, the more pests love it.
7,  After a while you don't bother to change out of your stained clothes to go down the street.
8, You can spend a glorious morning stomping snails but if you cut a worm in half with your spade you can't forgive yourself all day.
9, Seeing the first ladybugs of the season have you smiling all day.
10, You love people dropping in unannounced, it gives you an excuse to stop weeding.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Turnip cabbages, rosella and broad beans again

It was nice to get a coolish day with a bit of drizzle. I wish it was more rain but we have to be thankful for what we get I guess. I have had to start watering my blocks but I am hopeful that the warm weather means that I will have veggies ready to sell earlier than usual and before the very hot weather starts.

I have planted out my new, and rare, turnip cabbages. I know you can't actually see the seedlings in this photo but is won't be long till I will be able to show them off. I just hope the starlings leave them alone.

I am so looking forward to getting these going and tasting.

I now have heaps of melon, pumpkin and zucchini seedlings up now. Some will be going to the nursery on Saturday and some are spares for the blocks.

I have planted some out today directly into the ground which is how I prefer to plant them but I like to also have some in tubes for those that don't make it.

I am giving rosella another go this year. Last year I bought seeds and lovingly watched them grow only to find out that they weren't rosella at all. These are from a reputable seller so they should be right this time.

I keep thinking I just about have all the crops I can plant here but every year I find new stuff to grow. I am excited to think about what I will find for next spring.

All the broad beans are setting nicely. I still have a heap of seeds (kilos) that I didn't get rid of from last season so I had better package them up to sell at the market for cooking.

I am really going to have to restrict my broad bean growing next year. I let all the self sown ones grow from where I pulled up the plants last year and I have so many now that I am overrun. They are all over the place.
As you can see from the photo, the plants are all affected by rust to some extent and I have already noticed a few that seem a bit more resistant so I will tag them shortly and keep seeds from them.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Salal and pumpkin seeds

It was a beautiful sunny and warm day today.. a bit scary really as we have not had the rain that we should have had this month. Oh well, there is not much I can do about that.
I will have to start watering tomorrow as it is so dry for this time of year. I dread to think of the water bills for the next six months.

 My usual asparagus is not shooting yet this year but the seedling purple asparagus that I grew from seed last year is up.
After some trouble with the seedlings I only managed to get 3 plants to this stage but I might try with some more seed shortly. They do look interesting.

 I bought a Salal ( Gaultheria shallon) plant from the nursery last time I was in Mt Gambier. I don't generally buy 'Pick me' plants as the company doesn't usually have the variety names but this one caught my eye and I have been wanting to get or grow one for ages.
This plant is native to Nth America and grows best in shade (I have planted it with my mountain peppers) and with plenty of water.
Aparantly they were a favoured food of the native peoples of the area. I hope it does well for me.

 I had a couple of pumpkins stored for seed from last summer and since it has been pretty warm I thought I had better set the seeds out of them. Lucky I did as the seeds were already germinating inside the fruits.

This is 'Silver Edge', a pumpkin grown for its edible seeds rather than for the flesh. Luckily the seeds are large enough to be worth the effort of peeling.
The only problem with this pumpkin variety is that it produces so few female flowers, two seasons ago the plants produced no female flowers at all.

I am going to persevere with it in the hope that I can produce a line suited to this climate the is very fruitful. Last time I grew pumpkins (another variety)  for edible seeds they had huge fruits but very few seeds inside so they were not worth growing. Even though this variety has husked seeds, the fruits are small and filled with seed so I think I will find them worth growing.

Many of my silverbeet plants are now bolting to seed with this weather so I am hoeing out all that I see. If I find any individual plants that are resistant to bolting I will keep them for seed, but the rest are coming out to make room for other crops.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

General observations

I didn't see anything that was interesting enough to take a photo of today but I will go out again with the camera tomorrow.

Today was another glorious day, after the slight frost. Some my plants that have started shooting early were burnt by the frost on Friday morning but they will come back soon with this fine weather. The spuds, hardy kiwifruit and my new little lotus have some black leaves but it wasn't bad enough to damage the tamarillos. I sure hope I get fruit off the tamarillos this year. I have taken a heap of cuttings off them to sell and some to keep.

I dug a few more beds this morning and planted some of the seedlings I have growing in pots. Kale, celtuce etc. I still think it is a bit soon but if they bolt I still have plenty of seed and time to plant again. Bolting plants also make a good green manure to dig in so nothing will be wasted.

It is only a week til the HIRL market at Hamilton and the trays of seedlings I have to take to the landscape/nursery will be ready to go. I was a bit worried but I got them in at the right time. I hope it goes well for them and they keep up orders at that will pay for my fuel and market fees when I drop them off after every market. They seems to be happy with the tubers I sold them over the past couple of months and have sold them well.

I planted what is left of my hardy kiwi plants (Actinidia arguta) next to our shadehouse. I have barely been able to keep them alive in pots, and have had no luck in the ground so far as they just can't handle the boiling summers but as these ones are just doing nothing in pots I thought I would give it one last go and plant them in the only shaded area I have. The only problem is that this area gets a bit waterlogged in spring.
If they don't thrive here then I will just let them go. I hope that I have at least one male plant among them as kiwifruit males are prone to dying when stressed, and these plants have been really stressed over the past three years.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Seedlings and stuff

With a week of frosty mornings I am busy covering or moving my germinating seedlings so they are not damaged. I have given in and started them a lot earlier than I normally do, even though that means that some of the veg will be ready to pick in January when the markets are on holiday. I will have to seek out some other sales avenues.

 I have been putting some of the trays of seedlings out on the lawn for a bit of sun during the day as all the space in the polyhouse is filled and these are being kept in the shadehouse at the moment where it is a bit dark.
After having a neighbours cat walk on them one day I have started covering them up with bird netting. The problem with the bird netting is that if it lays on the seedlings they grow through it and it is difficult to extract the leaves so I keep it off them with bits of bamboo stakes.

 My melons and zucchinis are starting to germinate well after a few sunny days so I hope the heavy frost that we are supposed to be getting tomorrow morning doesn't hurt them. Even in the polyhouse it will be cold.
I will grow half of what I need now and put in more seeds in 6 weeks to extend the growing season. That should fix the problem of so much waste when they ripen all at once between markets.

The seedling bearded iris that I grew from collected seed last summer are looking good. I am not sure if any will be big enough to flower this year but I am looking forward to seeing what I get next year.

I lost a few through neglect but I have 21 plants out in the bed now. It will be interesting to see what sort of variety I get as the parents were so different in colours.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Garlic problems and diseases

Over the past week I have been worried about one of my beds of garlic in J block. It has been getting sicker each day.

This photo doesn't look as bad as the plants look in the 'flesh' as it were. There is still two months before these will be ready to pull but the plants leaves are going yellow and blotched.

It is not rust and although garlic is prone to virus diseases the other bed of this variety (Monaro Purple) in another block is fine, and so are the other varieties in the next bed over.

 There are surprisingly few good garlic disease pictures on the internet besides rust and thrip damage, and this doesn't really look like any I have looked at so far.

The young leaves are still looking good but if it keeps going the way it is I may lose the whole bed.

I would have thought the growing conditions here are perfect at the moment and all the other garlic beds are fine so this has me stumped.

 I have noticed a few garlic plants in this block that are deformed and stunted. This is affecting both a few Monaro Purple and a couple of elephant garlic.

I haven't seen this before and surrounding plants are not affected so it is unlikely to be mites or thrips. I am not going to pull them up as I am curious to see how it affects the bulbs.

In one of my beds just about all the plants are multi stemmed even though I only put single cloves in. This is affecting both the hardneck and softneck varieties that I have in that bed.

I have never had such problems with my garlic, it is always so easy to grow. The only problem I usually get is where the cloves start shooting early and popping out through the top of the foliage which is probably caused by fluctuating spring temperatures.

Oh well, if I am going to plant a large crop of it next season I am going to have to recognise diseases so I am taking this as a good lesson in diseases.

Other than checking my garlic I have been busy sowing seeds in trays, especially tomatoes, and potting up a few tubers to offer at markets.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Todays update

Apart from a little potting I haven't been up to much these last few days. Trees are popping out in flower and leaf all over the place and things are warming up. We have had a couple of light frosts but nothing as bad as usual for this time of year though.
My lotus root came yesterday and I have it sitting in a bucket of water inside till I am more confident that we won't have more frosts. I am excited to grow lotus as I love cooking the tubers and I can't buy any unless I go to Melbourne. It just isn't offered in supermarkets around here.

Today I went to the Portland market. I don't have anything to sell in veg so I am trialling a few other novelties and things to go to markets with at this time of year. Nothing is selling well but maybe I am just used to selling out when I take veg. I just have to hit on something that sells well and no-one else is offering. That is the hard part.
I have another little market at Coleraine tomorrow so maybe that will be better. I think I will put more plants in pots and sell them instead when the veg is low.

I have a heap if seedlings germinating so in a couple of weeks I will be able to plant them in their waiting beds. Tomorrow I will start sowing my tomato seed, already people are asking me for heritage seedlings so I need to get off my butt. I didn't save many tomato seeds last year since it was such a bad year for them but I will have to save more this season as more and more people are asking for them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Oca and arrachacha

We can be certain is is spring now, just listen to the wind whistling outside. This is the windiest part of the year here and it makes it hard to want to go outside to work... or at least it makes it a lot easier to find excuses to sit inside anyway.

 My arrachacha is starting to take off in the polyhouse. It is loving the warmth and I just hope that the extra heat in summer in there doesn't hurt it.

I am hoping that I will be able to force it to flower and set seed so I can experiment with growing conditions without worrying about killing them all. I only have the 5 plants in this raised bed.

Arrachacha (also called Peruvian parsnip) is one of the 'Lost crops of the Inca' and is supposed to produce nutritious roots but I have not been able to make it produce those roots so far.

I am hoping that moving them to a warmer place will help with root formation. It is in the same family as carrots so it should not be too hard to grow. Not only are the roots edible but you can also eat the young leaf stems raw or cooked.

This morning I planted out my seedling grown oca tubers. I really hope they grow well this season and one of them deserves to be a new variety. I have ordered another couple of packets of seed so I will grow some more this season. If I grow enough I should come up with some interesting ones eventually.
I have put in a couple more beds of oca than I planned on since I have had a lot of interest at the markets. If they grow better than the poor lot last year I should have enough to sell for months next year.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bamboo and baths

Listening to the wind outside, I am so grateful for a warm and comfortable home. After living homeless (by choice) for many years in my past I can never take some of the comforts we have for granted. I spent some time today doing a bit of orchid spotting in the bush today and driving home I had to dodge a lot of tree branches on the road.
I am waiting for some promised rain to wet my seedling beds but a quick look at the forecast on the computer just now shows that they have downgraded the amount to only 6ml. With this warm weather continuing I think I am going to have to start my watering regime within the next week as I have some beds seeded but they are drying quickly.

 This is how part of the back block is looking at the moment. A lot of the beds are waiting for some seed but although the weather is warm I am still worried about planting so soon. I have given in though and sowed a couple of beds of carrots and beets, and I have some pots in the shadehouse with seeds sprouting that I will be able to plant soon.

This is a picture of my poor Black Asper bamboo. It is the only big, clumping bamboo with edible shoots and good culms for building and making stuff that will grow in my winter conditions.

Although it looks poor just coming out of winter I am expecting to see new shoots soon and it should start growing well this year.
The biggest stems are 6ft tall from last year and they should grow a lot taller this year. They are slow to get going, which is why they are so expensive in nurseries.

I have two other plants, one that is only just surviving on J block and one in a pot in the polyhouse as a back-up. I am hoping that after two more years this one will not only be big enough to supply shoots and wood but I will be able to take growing materiel from it to sell.

I chose this species not only because it should grow here and not spread, but because of the quality of the wood and shoots. After a lot of investigation I found that the edible qualities of many bamboos are very variable, and so is the wood quality. This was the only one that has non-splitting wood and shoots that are edible without much preparation. A good all-rounder if you have the space, but I don't expect that it will grow to the size that it does in warmer winters, which is about 30 metres.

I plugged and filled up two of the baths I was given yesterday but I went out this morning to find that one is leaking. I will have to shovel all the dirt out of it tomorrow and redo the silicon around the hole. I will try to get a pic of the filled baths tomorrow.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

More super springness

Another scarily sunny day today. At least if we are going to get an horrific summer this year, at least we will have a comfortable and enjoyable spring.

I went to Merino today to sell some veg outside the shop. It was very pleasant sitting there doing crosswords but, unfortunately, there weren't many people about. I sold a bit, enough to pay for the fuel and a bit extra but not everything. At least I don't have to pay out for a stall or anything when I go there.

I'm not sure if you can notice in this picture but my tamarillos are starting to produce flower buds already. I hope I get a good crop off them this year. They were still too young last year.
I have them all growing under trees to protect them from frosts and they have all survived the winter. They have a lot of burnt leaves but are budding out all over with new leaves.

I love tamarillos, they taste like passionfruit to me.

My few surviving raspberries are shooting out also. I lost nearly all of them last summer but this year I have transplanted them to better soil and where I will be able to cover them from the hot sun if necessary.

My favourite are the yellow raspberries. The taste is divine.
I must remember to take some cuttings off them tomorrow.

Here are some of the trays of seedlings I am growing for the landscape nursery where I am selling my plants at the moment. They are loving the sun and warm weather and are popping up very quickly.

I have also bought some expensive seeds from Baker Creek called turnip cabbage or  Naone Rosse. It is a cabbage grown for its big turnip-like root and is a very rare heirloom from Italy. I am looking forward to seeing them mature. There was only 20 seeds in the packet so I will only eat one of them and leave the rest to collect seed from. They are reputed to taste sweet and broccoli-like.

Here is a (borrowed, lol) picture of them from Baker Creek:
Naone Rosse Trentino Antica

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Another nice, sunny day today, perfect weeding weather. Weeding is a bit unstimulating as a blog subject so I won't go on about it though.

Today a friend of mine dropped off 4 bathtubs into my carport while I was down the street.
After a bit of wheelbarrow work I got them over to the back block where I will fill them with dirt and water for my lotus and water chestnuts.

How lucky am I? free bathtubs. They will fit a lot more plants in them than the plastic tubs I was planning to use.

All I have to do now is make something to fill the holes where the plugs go and blob a bit of solastic about to make them watertight and they will be ready to go.

My very expensive lotus tuber is going to be posted on monday so I should have it by thursday, by which time I will have the tubs ready to go. Although I had a very pitiful harvest of water chestnuts last season I still have enough for the tubs, especially as they expand quite well to fit the available area.

A few days ago I filled some seed trays with dirt and sowed  a variety of vegetables in them as the landscaping place wants trays of seedlings so they can sell handfuls of them.
They are germinating today and with this weather, will be ready to send when I get to the next Hamilton market. I am starting with lettuce mix, celtuce, purple peacock broccoli, red russian kale and vivd choi to start with, just to see how they go.
Later in the month I will start putting in some melons and pumpkins in tubes for them. I have already filled a heap of pots of other plants. It looks like they will be a good buyer of what I have to sell.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cocky damage and water chestnuts

Another beautiful day today so I got some more straw spread out, it seems like that job is taking forever. I am running out of places to put it, I have covered the beds that I need to and now I am just laying it over the spare grassy bit on J block that I have never got around to using. I will plant pumpkins in it next month.

 This morning I went out to find that cockies had been trimming my small fruit trees. They are such a pain in the bum, especially when they are nipping the tops of my little, seedling figs and other smaller trees.

I started with fig seed a couple of years ago and planted them out in the fruit block last year. They are still very small but I expect them to grow well over the spring now that they are settled in.
I know that there is only a small chance of getting a fig tree that fruits from seed but it is fun trying.

After the dismal harvest of water chestnuts last year because they just got too hot over summer I am digging the tubs into the ground and have a shadecloth cover for them this year.

They grew well the year before so I know that they do well in tubs.

I have also bought a lotus tuber off Ebay (smacks own hand) which will go into one tub.

I love lotus root and if I can get them to grow well in a tub I will try next year to find someone with a dam to grow them in.
Last year I tried growing them from seed but they didn't take off. I will try again with a few more seeds but getting a tuber with a growing point will make it less of a risk if the seeds don't work again.

While I was on Ebay I also bought a Tzimbalo plant (Solanum caripense). It is the ancestor of the Pepino adn although the fruit might not be great I am going to try crossing it with pepino and see what I get. The tzimbalo fruit is small and edible but seedy, anyway it will be interesting to have something new.   

Monday, September 1, 2014

Early broad beans and silverbeet chlorosis

As you would have read in my last post, I went to the Hamilton market on Saturday with some more unusual veg, and I sold out of the lot. The scorzonera and kurrajong roots flew off the table. I love this market as the people in Hamilton love to try new and unusual fruit and vegetables.

I know I said I wouldn't but I think I will put in another couple of beds of kurrajong this year. They can be grown quite close together so the beds will pay their way.

After the warm weather we had over the last couple of weeks my broad beans are setting very early. I am going to have a huge crop this year.

I notice that the more unusual varieties like the crimson flowered and black seeded are setting earlier than the 'usual' ones. This should be good to extend my season in future years. It will be goot to have some that set in cooler weather.

Unfortunately I am noticing a lot of rust on my self seeded ones, probably because they started growing earlier than the others and were at a more mature stage during the wetter weather.

I never pull plants that are suffering from disease as I want only those with resistance to grow so this is the best way to select for resistance. Only those that cope well and produce seed breed.

The rust seems severe but doesn't seem to be stopping the plants from flowering and growing, they might be a tiny bit more stunted but not noticably so. It will be interesting to see if they set seed.

With the warmer weather the kohlrabi is extending flowering stems. I took some good kohlrabi to the market and also chopped off the stems of the sprouting ones and sold them separately. The thick extending stems are delicious peeled and either eaten raw or slightly steamed. My customers were happy to buy them - many of them seem to come to the market now just to see what new and interesting stuff I have.

I have noticed over the past month or so that a couple of the silverbeet plants are showing sever chlorosis of the leaves. This is usually caused by an iron deficiency although most of the plants are fine.

I will keep an eye on it and if more plants come down with it I might have to do something about it next year.

Iron deficiency is usually not caused by not enough iron in the soil, but too cold and wet conditions, especially if the soil is compacted, or too much phosphorous in the soil.

If my silverbeet don't start getting better in this warmer weather it will be a phosphorous problem but I think it is the cold and wet. As it is affecting only a couple of plants that is a good way to select against plants that can't cope as well in those conditions if I was going to let this patch go to seed. If I wanted seed from this bed I would pull out those weak plants now.