Wednesday, December 31, 2014

First potato seedling results

Well it is the end of another year, and the end of the mild weather. From tomorrow it looks like the temperatures are becoming true summer temps. Saturday is supposed to be in the 40s. I am not looking forward to it but at least it has been nice so far with milder weather between the higher temps.

I dug my potato seedlings from last year to see how they went. Unfortunately I lost some plants and tubers due to wind blowing down the pots so I only ended up with four seedlings. They were seedlings of the varity 'Asol'.

When the seedlings died down in winter I took out the little thumbnail sized tubers (the seed was planted late so the little seedlings didn't put on much growth) and planted them out in a bed in four rows. All of the tubers are still small so will need another year to grow out to truly see what they are like.

One of the rows didn't make it.

Far left - I got two tubers from this seedling. They are a bit like Kipfler in shape. Nice smooth skins and yellow flesh. One of the plants didn't grow well and had an ants nest at the base which is why the tubers are very small.

Middle - three tubers/plants grew from the original sedling. As you can see the resulting tubers were bigger but covered in scab which is odd since no potatoes have been grown there before and none of my other potatoes have any sign of scab. It just goes to show that these pathogens are already in most soils and will show when anything that is prone to them will show.
I will be destroying these potatoes as I don't want plants prone to disease.

Right - only one little tuber survived but the results are good. The tubers are roundish and smooth with yellow flesh.

I am going to try and find a supplier of true potato seed as I love growing them and finding out what I will get.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Celtuce, oca and the last of the berries

It was blowing a gale all day today, combined with a few showers, altogether not a day where I felt like doing much work outside.

 I picked the last of the celtuce seeds. I will let the tops dry in this tub for a week or two then clean the seeds. Lettuce seeds (Celtuce is a type of lettuce grown for its juicy stem rather than for the leaves) are a bugger to clean so I may end up leaving them a bit longer.

I love celtuce not only for eating but also because they are easy to grow all year round.

Today I picked the last of my raspberries and blueberries. It is sad to see the end of them, the season is so short.
I will get a small flush of extra raspberries in autumn but it won't be much.

I am continually surprised that my two blueberry bushes even survive here in my alkaline soil but they are looking healthier than ever this year. I do give them a handful of sulphur each spring which helps with the soil.
I really should take some cuttings and grow some more.

I did get out and start potting up this years crop of seedling oca. I am hoping for some amazing new varieties this year though I won't be able to choose the best till they grow out fully next year.
My bed of seedlings from last year are looking and growing really well so I will be able to see if there are any in that lot worth naming as a new variety. I doubt it though because I only got 7 seedlings and the chance of a better one is remote with that small amount. It is fun though

I am going to try growing a lot more potatoes from seed if I can find someone who can sell me some true potato seed. We are a bit limited in varieties in Australia but there are so many hundreds of varieties overseas that I am a bit jealous.
Oh well, I will try me hardest to get one or two more interesting coloured varieties out there in the next few years.

Friday, December 26, 2014

It's all about the beans

I hope you all had a great Christmas. My present was a lovely cool day so I didn't have to go out and water.

I am growing four kings of beans this summer. Not normal runner types as they don't handle our summer heat though. I am not a bean eater (except I love baked beans from the can) but people love to buy different kinds of colourful bean seeds so I will build up my stocks as I go for sale on my market stalls.

 My dwarf red snake beans are just flowering now and already have a few little beans growing. These beans only grow into a little bush but produce long, very thin beans that taste milder than the 'usual' green beans, and they don't have strings.

My green climbing snake beans are only just starting to climb now so they don't have any flowers on them yet.
Snake beans are actually a type of cowpea and hail from Africa so they handle heat well.
I wanted to grow a lot of these this year but birds kept pulling them out and I had to replant three times, and I still only ended up with enough plants for seed only.
Next year I will start them off under bird mesh.

Here is one of the first beans from my Blue Speckled Tepary beans.
These are little, semi-bush plants that produce heaps of tiny, speckled beans for drying. They are only small but the size of the bushes and amount of beans make them worth growing, especially since they are fairly drought tolerant and cope with the heat.

The tiny mauve flowers are so cute. These are a good bean for little gardens and people who don't eat a lot of beans.

The last type of bean I am growing is Madagascar beans. These don't like the heat but I have them growing on an eastern facing wall so they get afternoon shade. They did well here last year.
These are a large bean with lots of purple spots on them. They are not huge producers but the size of the beans make up for it a bit.
I don't have a pic of them right now as they are not yet flowering.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Oh my gourd, its that time again!!

My giant kettle gourd I grew last year has finally dried out and is ready for work. It was too slow drying to be able to get its seeds and plant them so that is for next year. These gourds are so big that each plant can only produce one fruit.

I decided to make another ornamental vase with this one with an oak design.

I spent sunday drawing the design. It is an autumn design with autumn oak leaves and acorns.

The leaves and branches will be coloured in after all the carving is done.

I have started the first cutting out of the design which should be finished in a couple more days.
Then comes the carving of all the individual leaves, branches and acorns, with a couple of dragonflies added in for some interest.

Then I will partially colour it in with water pencils, finish the other decorations and seal it. Boy this is a big project.

I love the look of the natural dried gourds so I don't paint them, just let the natural colours show through.

I love working with gourds as anyone can make things out of them, you don't have to have a lot of tools or skill. I didn't put many in this year as the plants grow so big and use so much ater that I can never get my money back on the fruits, they are just not cost effective, so I am just growing them for myself, with a few left over to sell or decorate my stall tables with.

I can already tell that this is going to look spectacular when it is finished.

I am not sure if I will post again before Christmas, so if I don't, MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all. :)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Growing scorzonera

I was happy with the market in Portland on Friday evening, a lot of the town came out and although I didn't sell as much as I had hoped, there was a lot of interest in my unusual veggies. It is a long way to travel but I think I will go there more often even though I won't be making much profit. I really don't have a choice now that the Mt Gambier markets are out now. I have to explore other markets and they are all small as all the towns around here are small.

My seed bed of scorzonera are starting to make seeds now. I was looking forward to this as I seem to have lost my jar of seed.

I love scorzonera, it is mild and tasty, easy to grow, and best of all, perennial - you can leave it in the ground to dig up whenever you like, then replant the tops for more, but smaller and uglier roots later.

There was only one other flower out when this one opened so some of the seeds are not filled. You can tell if the seeds are filled because they are hard, thick and ribbed!!

I have to point out that you must know your audience when you say something like that or they might get the wrong idea, lol. I remember once I commented on a persons moon and stars watermelon on a forum. I congratulated her on her big moons as my watermelons only had stars last year. One of the guys piped up and said that being a guy he would not be able to congratulate someone on their moons.
Ahhh, plant people.

Anyway, scorzonera is best cooked simply. It tastes like artichoke hearts so needs only a mild dressing so it is not overpowered. I like it steamed and served with melted butter but you could also serve with a white sauce or garlic butter.
Of course you have to get over the idea that it looks like old sticks, but that is not hard for us plant explorers to do. You can peel it to make it look nicer but I don't bother any more, the skin is not noticeable in the mouth.

Here is a picture I put up a few months ago:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hopniss and finger limes again

It was wonderful today, we had some welcome showers adding up to 13ml of rain. I didn't have to go out to water this afternoon.

I collected three lots of seed today, white Russian kale, rainbow silverbeet and the very last of the crimson flowered broad beans. I have quite a few beds to resow now and will work out what I am going to put in tonight. I guess some more carrots (I have to get some growing if I put enough in, surely), Beetroot and kohlrabi. Maybe I will also plant some of the left over oca and chinese artichoke plants I have left over in pots so they don't get wasted.

My hopniss (Apios americana, or American groundnut) is growing very well this year, it has certainly helped to grow it up vertical strings rather then the horizontal strings I tried last year.

I have three beds now, one to harvest each year for the biggest tubers. One of the beds has nothing for the plants to grow on, I am seeing how well they grow just sprawled along the ground.

My single finger lime that set fruit this year is looking very good even though it is still such a small plant. It hasn't dropped any fruit so far so I might get a good harvest later. The fruit are filling out nicely.

This is a green variety. Finger limes come in a range of colours, both in skin and flesh colours. I have a pink, green and purple. The colour will show when the fruit are ripe.

Tomorrow afternoon I am going to attend the evening market in Portland. I really hope I do well as I am getting sick of barely coming out even with no profit that I have had in the last half dozen markets. Now that my vegetables are harvestable I should be getting better takings. I will have a full van load of produce as well as a tray or two of plants. I need a bigger van as the tables and marquee take up half the space. I need to win tatts, hmmm.
For some reason, this year people haven't been as interested in the plants I have had to take lately. I think it is because I have had to go to markets in small and conservative towns where people don't like to try new things.

My main market in Hamilton doesn't have a January market so I can't wait till February. For the moemnt I am just going to have to muddle through with other random markets. At least there seem to be a few more around at this time than there were last year.
I have a heap of beds of veg to harvest so I have to keep selling so they don't go to waste. I have kale, Portugese cabbage, white beetroot, kohlrabi, silverbeet and rhubarb to name a few.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tamarillos and alpine strawberries

Ok, so now that my open day and survival course are over I can finally get back into working on the blocks. It is going to be cool for the next few days so I will be busily weeding as the weeds are getting a bit out of control. I spent 10 hours out weeding today and cleaned up a lot. My arms are heavy and sore from hoeing. At least with the heat of summer yet to come in force I don't have to get rid of every weed as they will be burnt off before long.

I am a bit worried that the melons are not setting fruit yet, they have barely any female flowers. They are growing so slowly this year that I am wondering what is wrong as the weather has been great for them. At least we have a long growing season so there is still plenty of time.

 As my regular readers will know, I have been worried about my tamarillos not setting fruit, well, a couple of days ago I was happy to note that one of the shrubs is finally setting.

I love tamarillos, they are delicious and the plants are quite ornamental too. To me they taste like a mix of kiwifruit and passionfruit, I can't get enough of them. It is a pity that they don't suit our weather here with the frosts in winter and heat of summer but they are doing well tucked under a couple of trees for shelter.

They are getting quite big and lanky so I will have to remember to go and tie them to the fences so they don't get blown down in the wind, especialy with a load of heavy fruit on them. Already I have lost a couple of branches as they are very fragile.

I LOVE my bed of white alpine strawberries. The people who attended my open day were equally rapt, they were all fighting for room under the shadecloth hunting for them.

The white ones are sweeter with a more intense flavour than the red and are a favourite of anyone I give them too. I'm glad they are too soft to take to market, more for me, lol.

They are covered with fruit at the moment.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Back again and exhausted

Well, I am back from taking some guys on a survival course out in the forests around here. We got back yesterday afternoon, a day early because a couple of them had very sore feet. When I tell people what to bring I will have to make it clear that they are compulsory, not just suggestions. The guys turned up in very unsuitable footwear.

At least they seemed to enjoy the experience and I refunded them for the unused day so I think they went away happy, but exhausted and sore.

Here are the guys on the second day with empty bellies after finally working out a way to open a can of tuna without any can opener or tools.

That was probably the best tasting can of tuna they have ever eaten.

They days have been warm so after I got back I had to go and water everything. I was expecting all the veg to be wilted but although some were starting to feel the heat they had stood up to three days of heat without water very well. I think I am watering everything too well and can probably lessen it a bit.

I am heading off to a small market tomorrow to try and sell some of the potted plants that didn't get sold on my open day. I have a heap of veg ready to harvest but I just don't have enough room in the van to take both. There is a market on in Portland next weekend so I will take veg to that one.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Turnip cabbage review

Well, I had my open day today and I am exhausted. Only half as many people turned up as I expected, half as much as told me they were coming. Oh well it was still a great day and I think everyone went home pleased.

Unfortunately I was so busy talking that I forgot to take any pictures. I hope I can get some from someone else.

I picked one on my rare turnip cabbages (Naone Rosse Antica Trentino) to show everyone. It was still fairly small but I was keen to try it anyway.

It was heart shaped and had a lot of extra roots but I am not sure if the extra roots are normal or not until I know the variety better.

The rest I will leave to get to a more head size as in the pictures I have seen.

After tidying up I brought the cabbage in and cut it in half. It is pure white inside.

I tasted some raw and was instantly surprised by the soft and creamy texture. It tasted like a mix of cabbage and kohlrabi with an overtone of swede. It was pleasant and many people would like it.

I steamed and microwaved a couple of pieces and the swede overtone went away and the flavour was more mild. I found it very pleasant to eat even without any butter or other sauce.

I think this vegetable will go very well on my stall and am looking forward to saving some seed to offer.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Beautiful rain

I am so happy. Today it thundered and showered all day. We didn't get much rain, only 13mm (half an inch) but after my watering last night all the plants are looking very happy. A bit of natural rain makes a lot of difference.

 Here is a pic of our back yard in the rain today. I have been expecting the grass to have died off by now with the heat and dry weather but it is still hanging on. I think I will have to mow it again before it dies off for the summer.

My Chinese yams in the raised bed are growing well. next year they should be big enough to form tubules on the stems. You can also eat the main tubers but they are fragile and a hassle to dig but the stem tubules are only as big as peas but produced well and people say that a single plant can produce a bucket full. They are cooked just like peas and are supposed to taste a bit like potatoes but I haven't had a chance to try them yet.

I have got a couple more plants out in the garden. If I was growing on a heavier soil I wouldn't put them out in the beds as they would not be easy to dig up and any bit of tuber in the ground will sprout again but as I am on sand I think I should be able to get the tubers out well.

lastly here is a picture of some of my dried gourds from last year, just for the heck of it.

I had a bad year and only a few plants grew so I was lucky to get any gourds at all. I was going to put in more this year but didn't get around to it so I only have 5 plants growing, or trying to grow, like my melons they are growing very slowly this year.

I must take some time to make a couple of things with these. Hmmm, I will think about it tonight.