Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Weedmat experiment

It is still damp and cloudy so I am not getting anything done so I think I might have a break from my posting for a couple of weeks. There is still three months of doing nothing til planting time in spring so I will be struggling to find things to write about.
Next month my sister is having another baby so I will be there with limited internet for three weeks and that will also stop my posting, you will have to be patient.

 I am not able to keep up with the weeds properly so I thought I would do a little experiment. I put down a couple of rows of weed mat over the weeds to see if it would do a good job of killing them.

I used 'normal' weedmat on one row (the right) and the geo fabric that I like on the other to see if there will be a difference.
I prefer the geofabric because it is easy to handle and doesn't fray but the weedmat is half the price and lasts longer.
I decided to put it over the living weeds to see if it would kill them and let them decompose into the soil and feed the worms as when you put normal weedmat on bare soil it can cause the soil to go a bit stale, though not as bad as solid plastic.

Sorry this is so short, I really have nothing more to talk about.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Winter work

With rain for the last two days I haven't been able to do much outside. I try to think scientifically but it is really tempting to think that this early winter rain is a good sign for the coming spring and summer. Well, at least it will fill up the subsoil and I won't have to irrigate as much this summer.

 I did manage to get a bit of clear weather so I went out and dug a heap of the small beds on D block. I generally don't like to do much digging this time of year then leave the beds naked but I am going out of my mind with inactivity, so I dug most of the beds in this block that day.

This spring is going to be the busiest I have ever had and I will be planting every bed, with seed crops, renewing my melon varieties, and with the few crops I am developing into new varieties.
It will be difficult on my own but I think at some point I will have to pay for a few hours a week from a local gardening contractor when things get busy.

It is the time of the year again when the root crops are pulled so I can select the best plants for replanting for seed.
Here are a few of the Malaga radishes I pulled this morning. I tossed any plants that showed signs of early bolting, poor growth or off colour.

Although in the home garden it is not so important if you get a few off plants, for me as a seed seller I have to make sure buyers of my seed and the end user can be confident that the variety is true and will be the best they can grow.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Selecting Vivid Choi for bulbs

Well, I have recovered from 10 days of travelling and had to get back to work today. I did some spraying, watering and selecting my Vivid Choi for bulbing.

 I find that most people consider Vivid Choi to be too strong in taste for their liking but some of the plants produce small bulbs which are much milder in flavour.

I have been selecting over the past couple of seasons for plants with the same great colours but also producing useful sized bulbs. I am still trying to get bigger bulbs but here is the result of this growing period.

I grew one bed of choi from the 20 or so plants that I selected for bulbing last summer and today went out and pulled up the bed.
I selected the 14 plants with the biggest bulbs and also with the full range of leaf and petiol colours to grow on for seed in spring.

I figure it will take a few more growing seasons to get the bulbs bigger but each time there will be a bigger percentage of plants with bulbs.

I also got into the weedy garlic beds and cleaned out the beds of weeds. They look so much neater now.
This bed is almost finished and looks much better.

I am not expecting too much from my garlic this year considering the state of the soil - I must take another soil sample in soon to see how much change there has been from last year.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

My business trip to Qld to meet my seed buyers

Well, I am finally back from seven days of driving to Queensland and back dropping off seeds and visiting my seed buyers. I learned a lot and the trip was well worth it. I got a better idea of what buyers want and how they do their business and I learned that I will have to change my plans for my seed drying room.

 When I got back I saw that my ulluco was ready to harvest. It is so beautiful.

I have three varieties and am going to see if I can force some mutations to get some other colours as I have heard that they mutate easily. We will see.

On my trip I came across a cafe called 'The Cube' it is made up of a heap of stacked shipping containers. It is an interesting concept but I can't figure out if I like it or not. I had an iced chocolate and a piece of cake there.
It is in Mudgee (NSW) if anyone is interested.

One of the interesting things about tropical and subtropical areas is that ferns and figs grow on every surface. You get plants growing on bare walls as well as poking out of every crack and on the trunks of every tree.

One of the things that confounded me is that down here we often hear about how people, mainly in Qld and NSW complain about the noise of flying foxes (for readers not in Australia, flying foxes are a large type of fruit eating bat with a wingspan as long as your arm).

Well I was in a caravan park next to a flock/group/whatever of roosting flying foxes and they sound just like a flock of small parrots like parakeets. There was nothing like the noise I expected. I think that city people are very out of touch and spoiled - how would they react if they had to live down here and have to put up with the eardrum bursting screeching of cockatoos every morning and evening.

It is difficult to see in this photo (I couldn't get close enough to them) but you can see some hanging in this tree.

Maybe coping with their poop under trees is more of a problem, especially with Hendra virus (A deadly virus carried by fruit bats) but I am not sure it can be spread that way.

 It was a bit upsetting to see many gullies totally over-run with weed, non-native vines and creepers. It really looks ugly and there is not much that can be done about it. In the towns efforts are made to clear them up with fire or herbicide but the creepers seem to spread everywhere.

And lastly, although it was too misty and wet to take pics of the mountains (it is rainforest after all) here is a quick snap of the forests just where farmland starts.
I did get a bit frustrated spending long hours driving on dangerous, narrow, very bendy roads in the mountains at 30-40km per hour to get where I was going. That is very tiring, especially if you get caught behind a caravan or truck and with sheer drops you can't pass.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ulluco, new fence and oca

With a few lovely sunny days I was able to get quite a bit of weeding and other work done. I finished digging the yacon that I have to take up to my buyer this weekend and sprayed the fencelines. It was a really good week. Now we are having some wild and wintery weather and I can comfortably sit inside in the warmth. Many parts of Eastern Australia are flooding so I think the drought is finely over.

 My Ulluco has not quite died down yet but I did dig up a few tubers so I could take a picture and show people.
I have three varieties - aren't they colourful?

I did cook and eat a couple. They taste just like beetroot and I really enjoyed them. I can't wait to grow a whole lot of them next season.

I finely got the new fence up so my neighbours sheep can't get in any more. Apart from some broad beans I did not plant any autumn beds this year as the sheep were eating everything.

That is a load off my mind.

I have pulled up the few oca seedlings that survived this year. There is a nice selections of colour but not as good as last year. I really like the very dark red one.

The tubers are small because the plants were suffering so it will be another year before I can evaluate them on production.

Two of the varieties of broad beans I put in this year are flowering while still tiny. I think it is because of the poor soil so I have fertilised them to see if that makes them grow a bit more.
They are looking fine aside from their small size.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Caigua and rhubarb

Well, apart from digging another 100kg of yacon sets I have all my seed and stuff cleaned and ready to take up to my seed buyers next weekend. I made a simple seed cleaner out of pipe and a hair dryer which works but is a bit awkward so I might play with it a bit to make it better. At least it works.

 The weight of my caigua plants have finally collpsed my old, cheap greenhouse frame so I will have to get off my butt and make something better next year.

You can see that the plants are finally starting to die down and I will pick the fruits shortly. These fruits may be guant compared to my other variety but they only have about 8 seeds in each one so I won't get too many seed packets out of them.

Here is a comparison between the common commercial variety of rhubarb on the far right and two of my own selection (Red Rover) on the right. Where the commercial one is smaller and not quite liking the cold, mine love it and produce abundantly all winter with no frost damage.
For the rest of the year they are similar but overall mine produces more over the whole year.

Although rhubarb is not good to grow on spec I have put in a couple of rows to sell fresh locally. If it doesn't work out I will have some great plants to sell sets off at least. All the people who have bought fresh rhubarb off me have come back to tell me how great it is. I think my selection will eventually become well known for its quality.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bet you didn't know this about mouse melons

We had such a beautiful day today that I just had to start harvesting the tuberous veggies.

Harvesting the oca was better than I expected, I was able to find a small tuber or two from about a third of the trial varieties - enough to trial them again next year. A couple showed some promise for a good year, well any year will be better than this one. I also have 8 seedling plants from this season which are almost ready to dig.

I hope I never have such a bad year for oca again.

 I decided that I wanted to grow the mouse melons/Mexican sour gherkins to another bed next year so I started digging the bed they have been in for the past couple of years.
Wow, I knew they produced tubers but I thought that as no-one ever talks about them that they were insignificant. I was so wrong.

Here are the tubers from a single two (or perhaps three) year old plant. All in all they added up to nearly a kg.

I took one in to cook. The skin is not flash so you have to peel them and the flesh tastes kind of like potatoes when raw. When cooked they are like a mixture of yacon and potato in taste and texture, keeping crisp and juicy even after cooking. They are very bland but take on the flavour of what they are cooked with. They are not something that would take off in a supermarket but interesting and good as a stealth food. And, of course, it means that it is a double use plant.

I was getting very impatient to try Mauka (mirabilis expansa) but the frost we had a few nights ago didn't bother it, so I dug up the smallest and weakest plant to try the root.

I peeled and boiled it as is usual until tender. I ate it just as it was without any salt or other flavouring and I really love it. It has a taste and texture exactly like potato but a little 'stickier'. I love potato but this is even better.

The string in the middle of each root is easy to remove after cooking.

I had heard that the cooking water is supposed to make a great drink but it just tasted like potato water to me. To be honest I nearly boiled it dry so maybe the water was a bit too concentrated so I will try again another time.