Thursday, February 26, 2015

Leaky bath and Chinese yam

I noticed last night when I was watering the back block that one of the baths of water chestnuts seemed to have sprung a leak. The water level is way down and at the soil level. I'm glad it is not the bath with my lotus in it.

 After the water chestnuts are harvested I will have to empty the dirt out of it and redo the plug hole with more silicon.

They are growing well in the bath tubs so I hope I get better and bigger tubers than last season.

My Chinese yam is flowering away but there is no sign of the productions of stem tubers yet.
These plants are dioecious and mine (like most if not all in Australia) is male, so they re not able to pollinate themselves. This is a good thing as they can easily become weeds as they are, by dropping the stem tubers everywhere, without having fertile seeds as well.

If my plants don't produce stem tubers I will have to break apart the raised bed to get at the tubers when they die down in winter. It will be interesting to see how the tubers have developed especially as the soil they are in is a bit heavy.





Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My new helper

Today was a busy day collecting and sorting seed. I had a helper along, my little wooden drawing model asked if she could come along so of course I said yes. I will never turn down a request from someone who wants to learn more about growing food.

After we got home I told her that if she wanted to come out with me again she would have to wear clothes, it would be embarrassing if the neighbours started talking about my little nude friend, think of all the perverts!!

 Here is little helper (I am going to have to think of a name for her) having a bath in a bowl of Florence Fennel seed. She really enjoyed it and asked to help a lot more with the seed sorting. It is nice to have someone to talk to about seeds.









Looking out over the garden, we checked on the Silver Edge pumpkins that are setting nicely, unlike last year when the plants never produced any female flowers.

 These pumpkins produce seed that is used for eating instead of the flesh. The seed has hulls on it but I grow it because it produces more seed than the hulless ones and it is not too hard to peel the large seeds.







Helping with the corn, careful you don't fall, you are only little after all and neck height for me is a mountain for you.

It's all good, she got down with a bit of help and pronounced the corn good enough to eat. Whew.





My little helper was very impressed with the tomatoes. Too bad she is far too small to lift any but the small ones.

I haven't had a good year for tomatoes but the smaller types are doing well.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Andean vegetable plans



This is an extention of one of my posts on a gardening and backyard plant breeding forum (http://alanbishop.proboards.com/) putting together my plans for my Andean vegetables for this year. I have added pictures and more text which wasn't in the original post

Oca - I only have a couple of dozen seedling plants, and another 7 from last year to start selecting from but since that is about 30 more than have been available in Australia up until now so I will have something new to introduce to my customers next year. I am just trying to get some choice for people here for now and then I will start selecting for myself and my interests. We have only had two colours in Aus up till now and one of those does not have enough heat tolerance to grow here well.
Although my originals flowered profusely last year I didn't get any seed and usually they don't flower much here.
I have stumbled on the perfect way to grow out the seedlings in the first year - pricking them out into pots and digging the pots into the ground in one of my covered veggie beds. Some of the young plants are almost as big as the outdoor plants from last year, and I will get a heap of bigger tubers than the mini tubers you usually get in the first year.

Achocha - I really don't like the taste and texture of these but I grow a few each year for seed in case anyone asks. Picture on the right


Ahipa - won't grow where I live so I have given up on it. The summers are too hot and intense.


Achira - I actually like these rhizomes though I don't eat them much as it is much easier to eat potatoes, lol. I will continue to grow it but have not collected seed from it so far. They are closely related to garden canna lilies.

Arracacha - I have been trying to drought stress my plants to produce seed but having no luck. My offsets take easily and I have never lost one but I have had no luck getting them to produce roots large enough to be edible. I now have them in a polytunnel to see if the more stable temps will help with that.

Maca - doesn't grow here well.

Potato - I am going to try growing a few more from true seed this year. I have difficulty getting seed to set here so I might have to try and buy some in.

Yacon - Can't get seeds from them but they grow well and I am happy with what I have. There is little chance I will be able to source other varieties.

Vegetable Amaranth - sells well at the markets since I have introduced it to my customers. I love it.

Yautia - grows well here and I am intending to find out if I can get my plants to flower. The amount of edible tuber to plant size is small which is disappointing. I now have enough plants that I can eat one this coming winter to try it out. After a bit of early trouble I can now get every offset to survive so I can build up numbers.

You can see here a picture of the edible rhizome which starts to grow as the plant produces offsets at the base.










Friday, February 20, 2015

Corn, lotus and more

With the hot weather continuing it is starting to wear a bit thin. As least with Feb nearly over you can see the end of it, just a few weeks and the weather should cool down. I am so looking forward to it, not only because I like cooler weather but because I will be able to put in a heap of beds of seed.
Most veg seed won't germinate in hot temps so I am itching to have some cool weather to start preparing the beds and sowing.

 Although my lotus plant is putting out lots of new leaves there is still no sign of the 'standing up' types of leaves.
The leaves on the water here don't look as big as they actually are but I am very pleased with the size. Maybe next year the plant will even be big enough to flower.

I love eating lotus root so I am hoping that this experiment teaches me how to grow enough to eat. If the tubers are big enough in the winter I might fill up all the baths with it and just use plastic tubs for the water chestnuts.

My Madagascar beans are doing very well this year and are covered in pods. Each pod only has 2 or 3 beans in it but they are very big beans and there are a lot of pods.
My sister gave me some other large type of bean last year but I mislaid them and by the time I found them again I didn't want to risk planting them in case it was too late. Hers died so these are a bit special and I don't want to risk them. If she doesn't want them back I will put them in next spring.



I have picked a few cobs of my coloured corn. The top picture is the flour corn and the bottom is sweet corn.
I am picking them a bit early, just as they are starting to mature as I can't risk the parrots finding them or I won't have any left one morning. Normally I would like them to dry a bit more on the plants.

The cobs are filled much better than I expected with the heat coming just as they were flowering. Of course many cobs were not pollinated and filled at all, but what I have checked is good.

The sweetcorn is very sweet and delicious. I picked one at milk stage and ate it as I was doing my morning inspection.

You can see that the cobs vary a bit in their size and shapes. I bought seed from a few places to make sure it is genetically diverse and to develop a type that will do well in my conditions so I needed a lot of diversity to start with.
It is exciting to see how they develop each year but I am not selecting at this time (except for the self selecting they are doing with some plants either dying or not producing in these conditions). I do like the look of the long cob in the sweetcorn pic though.







Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Harvest time is ramping up

I am busy at the moment harvesting seed from many plants. I have many buckets of seed pods to clean sitting out on the table under the back veranda - hamburg parsley, vivid choi, carrots, silverbeet and purple peacock broccoli, as well as some tomatoes. Well, that will give me something to do for the next few days when it will be too hot to do anything outside.

 I have two varieties of ground cherries but I am not going to grow 'Golden' any more as 'Aunt Molly' tastes so much better. This is Aunt molly pictured.

I have just crushed a heap of fruit and put them aside to ferment so I can get the seeds out of them.

The only thing I don't like about this ground cherries is that they seed all over the place, you only have to plant them once, and you will have seed from missed fruit coming up all over the garden for years to come. You have to be dilligent every year to pull them up as you see them or they will become a weed, not only in your garden, but for your neighbours too.


I have also put a container of wild currant tomatoes (Solanum pimpinellifolium) out to ferment for seed.

These tiny tomatoes are so sweet and tasty that if you don't eat sugar these would be the closest thing you would have to lollies. I pick a handful every time I go out watering that block and eat them as I go. They are very yummy.
The bushes are straggly but they look great covered with fruit. I think this is the perfect fruit for a kids garden.


Only one of my liquorice (or licorice) plants (Glycyrrhiza glabra) produced seed pods this year.
I have picked them then spent yesterday afternoon laboriously picking out the seeds from the prickly little pods. At least I have them all done now, but I will have to find a better way next year.

This winter I will be digging up the plants and I hope the roots are bigger than I expect them to be, and that they taste good.

The good thing about this plant is that propagation is easy, you just replant pieces of root.







Monday, February 16, 2015

Mouse melons, corn and rosella

I have been chasing down a new block to transplant all my fruit trees to as the current block has some issues (that I won't go into here). I managed to find someone who is happy for me to uses their 2 acre empty horse paddock just down the road from me which is very handy.
There is a water problem with just a hose from the house to the edge of the paddock but I can do something with that and it will only be for the first summer to get them established.

When the autumn rains come I will start transplanting them. Some are getting quite large so I will have to cut them back so with that and the root pruning it will be another two years before they are fruiting *sigh*

My mouse melons are going gangbusters with fruit all over them.
These are a cute little melon relative that taste like lemony cucumbers. I think they would be great as pickles but I sell most of mine in punnets for fresh eating or to add crunch to salads.

If you decide to grow these cure little cucumbers (also known as cucamelons) you will need to be patient ans they germinate and grow VERY slowly in the first two months.



My rosella plants have their first flower buds about to open tomorrow. Well... one opened yesterday but apparantly they only open for one day and I missed it.

One thing I learned the other day is that the leaves are spicy and go great in stir-fries (what doesn't, lol)
I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted the leaves and I think I will sell them in punnets next year when I have more plants.
I will have to dry some also and see if they are any good dried.


Here is a good example of what you have to expect when you get very hot and dry weather when corn is flowering. It shows two problems, one - lack of filling as pollination is disrupted by the flowers drying out. Notice how few kernels are developing.

Second - the corn cob is growing out of the husk, or more precisely, the husk is not growing with the cob. This seems to be cause by hot weather during pollination. It is a problem because it leaves the kernels open to predation by birds and rodents.

I had the same problems last year. I wonder if either of these problems can be selected against?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Greenhouse woes and small farming article

You all know that I was going to buy a large polycarbonate greenhouse to replace our polytunnel which is always needing its skin repaired.
Well I was going to get one a bit bigger at 9m long but I went onto the shire council website to see if I needed planning permission for it but it was too big, so I decided on two 6m ones which I thought I would be fine with.

It turns out that I read the councils measurements wrong and these were still too big. Our council is well known to be difficult with getting planning permissions, and it costs a lot of money so I didn't want to try going down that road.

Anyway, I have decided to go for three of these 3.7 x 2.5m ones. It is not an ideal solution but we will still end up with the same total floorspace that we have now and they are small enough not to need permission. I just hope the council doesn't inspect them one day and tell us we cheated the system and tell us to get rid of them.

At least it will save money if one gets damaged in our high spring winds and needs repair as it will be a lot cheaper to repair or replace a singe one rather than the lot. I am hoping here that the wind doesn't damage the lot, lol.


Today someone posted a link on Facebook to this article: http://www.salon.com/2015/02/10/what_nobody_told_me_about_small_farming_i_cant_make_a_living/

It really shook me up as they couldn't make a living on ten acres so what am I going to do with less than two. Up till now I have held out hope that with a bit more time and more efficiency I would at least be able to break even but I think I am going to have to work on a different strategy. I have been talking about concentrating on mostly seeds and maybe I will have to do that and grow a lot more seedstock.

Everything in the article is exactly as I have experienced and it is hard to come to grips with the fact that with society as it is it probably won't get better *sigh* I am going to have to do some thinking but I really hope I can come up with something that doesn't involve going back to a 9-5 job.



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

bamboo and hot pumpkins

With hot weather still hammering my poor plants I am at least grateful that the summer has been cooler than expected up until now. I have been sowing garlic and seed in some of the empty beds ready to germinate when the rain and cooler weather comes.

I have two 'Black Asper' bamboo plants growing on my blocks. One is not doing so well but this one below has really taken off this summer. The new stems are taller than I can reach and maybe I will be able to cut one or two next year for plant stakes.

This bamboo has good, thick stems for making things out of and the shoots are also reputed to be good to eat. It is a clumping bamboo so it won't get out of control.











As you can see, my pumpkins are looking prestty sad in the heat. They do perk up overnight but it is still taking a toll.
I have one pumpkin called 'Small Sugar' which I am trying this year that is standing up to the heat better than my others.

Sorry, I have visitors so I don't have much to talk about or time to write a lot so I will put up a better post in a couple of days,















Sunday, February 8, 2015

Melons and my bushfoods course

Sorry about the delay in posting. I have just got back from taking a couple of people on a two day bushfoods course. Everyone else cancelled earlier but we still had fun. When I got home I had to rush out and water all the blocks as yesterday was very hot. Luckily all the plants were looking fine.

My first Melon De Luneville was almost ripe. Too bad I was a bit rough when I inspected it and it fell off the vine. If I was more careful I would have waited till tomorrow as the colour would have come out then.
It is supposed to be creamy yellow with orange spots but you can see here that the green spots are just turning orange. It will still taste good though.

I wish the melons were having a better year but I think I will have to wait till next year and cover them all with shadecloth.


On our course we wend yabbying. Unfortunately we didn't get any yabbies, well, we did but they were all too small for eating.
We did catch a baby turtle though. I took this photo of it before we let it go.

This is the reason I don't think people should use opera house type yabby nets as they catch and kill a lot of turtles and other wildlife, not just yabbies.

If you don't have an hour to spend using a drop net you need to organise your time better.

Here we are cooking some puff pastry filled with cream cheese over the campfire for breakfast this morning.

I got the idea off the internet but it didn't work as well as I had hoped, but at least we had a good laugh from it, and they did taste good.

Next time I might stick with damper on a stick filled with golden syrup.

We had a great time although the funny weather this summer meant that there wasn't as much native food around than usual but we still got to see and taste a good variety.




Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rosella, watermelon and more

Sorry it has been a few days since I posted last but the evenings have been so mild that I have been making the best of it when I go out to weed and plant.

 Like all the melons I am not going to get many watermelons this year but at least my trusty Blacktail Mountains are not letting me down.
These little watermelons are so tough that it would have to be an extra bad year for them to die early.

They are not my best tasting watermelon, that award goes to 'Orangeglo' but they are reliable and still taste much better than supermarket ones.

My customers also like them because they are small and easy to put in the fridge.



At long last my rosella bushes have little flower buds on them. I think that although they are late, they will still have time to produce seed.

The flower has a fleshy calyx that is popular in teas and jams. Apparently it tastes like cranberry.

They are a species of hibiscus so I guess they will have showy flowers. I will take another photo when they are in flower.



I just had to take a picture of my tallest sunflower this year. It is a beauty and looks so sunny and happy.

This year the parrots are not waiting for the seed to ripen before they eat them and destroy the flowers so it is difficult to get a good pic of the flowers, this is the only one they are mostly leaving alone, but only because they flowers are still too young and the seed hasn't developed.

I am not going to try and net some of the plants for seed this year as I still have plenty of seed from last year to replant next spring.