Tuesday, November 21, 2017

First broad bean harvest, more Phoenix nasturtiums, and tomatillos

With a week of temps in the thirties after last weeks rain everything is popping. Of course so are the weeds but I will plug along and get them under some sort of control as time goes on.
I lost two of my melon beds to snails in the last couple of days so I will replant them tomorrow and put out some bait.

 I thought I would put up a couple more pics of the 'Phoenix' nasturtiums as they are so pretty.

I have been pulling out the ones with 'normal' flowers as I see them so I can have a clean line. It annoys me when people sell a variety without knowing if it has been crossed. I will have to grow them out an extra year to see if there are any 'normal' ones in my seed from these so I can consider selling them in packets.

So far it looks like I only have two colours, orange and yellow. I hope the two plants that are yet to flower have another colour.

Finally the broad beans are ripening. I have harvested my 'Early White' but I only had a few plants of those. Now it the 'Stone Ear' turn.
These are very pretty with their markings that make them look like pebbles

My tomatillos are just starting to flower now. This one is 'Amarilla Yellow' but the others are not far behind.
I have three varieties in this year.
I will have to work out a better way of harvesting the seed from them as doing it by hand last year was a royal pain, and I have a lot more in this year.

I am going to try the blender, and the paint stirrer methods of extracting the seed this year. One of those should make it a lot easier.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

MIni choi and nasturtiums

We have just had two days of beautiful rain so I won't have to start irrigating till December, YAY.

After a few days with temps in the low thirties (C) followed by this three inches of rain the seedlings are jumping. Everything is going great. Of course, the weeds will be loving this too but I will deal with them.

 One of my favourite veggies to grow is dwarf choi. It is so fast that you can almost see it growing, and good and mild to eat. Just chuck some in a star fry, or even in a salad - too easy, lol.

This year I was going to grow a few varieties of nasturtium but I forgot to sow one type, and another really isn't doing well right now.

This one is called 'Phoenix' and you can see that the petals are separated and look novel. A couple of the plants are the 'usual' type so they may have been crossed but I am culling those as they flower. I just hope I get a few different colours.

Another couple of weeks and I will be able to take some great pics of the veggies so come back soon.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

garlic selection, purple asparagus, and more

You may remember how I have been grouching about how the boggy conditions every winter/spring have destroyed all my garlic varieties. Well after years of selection for surviving and producing in wet conditions and heavy weed pressure, I finally have a epigenically selected garlic that will cope with those conditions.

 It is a selection of Monaro purple and I have asked another garlic grower to grow out some bulbs next season to make sure it does as well for him in these difficult conditions as for me.

It has been a struggle but, although the bulbs are not particularly even, they produced quite well.

I let the weeds grow freely through the garlic this season to test it thoroughly and am pleased with the result.

If it goes as well next year I will offer it to the public.

During the selection process it seems to have lost some of its bite, it is just a bit milder in flavour than the original Monaro Purple but otherwise it is the same, just more suited to boggy conditions without a lot of grassy top problems.

The only brassica to survive the wet over winter was Bear Necessities kale. The pods are starting to ripen now so I suppose I had better get the bird netting on in the next couple of days.

I have planted a bed of purple asparagus for seed, though half of them didn't make it through the winter. The parent plants are going gangbusters though. Some of the spears are as big as my wrist.

I love purple asparagus as it is more tender and a little sweeter than my green one, which is better tasting than most other common varieties in turn.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Duck potatoes and frost

Damn it, we have had a couple of frosts now which have damaged or destroyed some of my seedlings, and the nights are still too cold for things to grow properly. At least we are supposed to get up into the 30s by this time next week.
Tomorrow I will go and replant the beds that have been ruined or not come up and the seed will germinate in the warmer weather in a few days.

This is the broad bean 'Robin Hood'. It is supposed to be a dwarf but it has grown to the same height as my other varieties which is a disappointment, the other worry is that it has been a very poor producer, at least this year. I will try it again next year to see if it is just the year.

This variety does have very short internodes so it produces a lot of leaves, maybe at the expense of pods. If it always does this then it may be great for green manure.

I didn't put any large amounts of broad beans in this year as I needed to grow out a few varieties where I only had a few seeds and didn't want a risk of crossing. Next year I will choose a couple for mass planting.

The frosts have damaged all my cucurbits. maybe some will survive but luckily there is still time to replant. Some like this zucchini may survive, I should know in a few days.

I try to get some early seeds sown every year and sometimes I luck out with the frosts and sometimes I don't. I am beginning to rethink the strategy and next year I might just wait till November to start planting.

I took all the water chestnuts out of one bathtub this year to grow duck potatoes. The few duck potatoes I grew last year did very well so I will be growing more, simply because they don't have to be peeled and, so, are easier to process for eating.

They are shooting strongly right now so I had better transfer them to the bath.

I went out to one of my house blocks yesterday to find out that the magpies had pulled out all the rare melon seedlings there. I was so angry. I think I will have to replant them over on the main seed block, and do even more hand pollination *sigh*.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Cold nights and ruined plantings

Unfortunately the nights are staying way too cold for my new seedlings. Many beds have not germinated and of those that have, many of the seedlings have died. We are expecting a few frosts this week but, hopefully, after that I can replant.

 One of my struggling baby zucchini has put out a flower in a desperate hope to reproduce. Poor thing. I have picked the flower off to give it a bit more energy but unless the weather heats up soon I don't hold out much hope.

One problem I am having is with tiny snails eating the underneath of the zucchini and pumpkin seedling leaves. I am not sure if you can see but there are a heap of these very tiny snails on it.
They don't seem to eat the bait I put out, and they weaken the seedlings with their feeding.

My poor, poor garlic is overrun with weeds. Luckily nearly all the garlic I have left is Monaro Purple which is the only one that can cope with my winder bogginess and weed pressure.
At least I will get a better harvest than last year, but I am really going to have to work out some way of coping with the weeds better. They grow so fast and thickly that it is hard to keep up with hand weeding, and when the garlic gets to a reasonable size you have to stop weeding or you pull out the garlic.

On another note, I have rolled up all my weedmat from the beds. It is just impossible to get seeds germinated or seedlings growing when all sorts of pests live under it and come out at night to eat everything.

All my beds will be clear of weed suppression from now on as pests living in straw and under weedmat is too hard to deal with.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Busy, busy, mowing and weeding

Now that sowing has nearly finished, just some resowing of patches to go, it is time to start mending and tidying after the neglect of winter. The grass on the driveways is growing strongly so I am mowing every two weeks to keep the place looking tidy.
I will be starting putting together more irrigation soon as I am guessing that I might have to start the irrigation in about three weeks, though the soil is still quite damp.

 The winter has left the shadecloth bed covers a bit tatty so I have pulled them up and doing some small repairs. Generally all I have to do is hammer in all the stabilising posts that came loose in the wet, and attach the shadecloth again to them.
Overall, they are still quite good.

So far we haven't had much of the strong spring winds that we usually get so I am not having to take them down and put them back up often.

Just about all my seed grow bearded iris this year are finished, just one more plant to go.
I am impressed with this particular one - it has large flowers and many on each stem. I think this might be the one I keep from all that flowered this year.

With the cold nights that are still going on my poor little zucchini plants are suffering a bit. I have planted new beds later so those new ones should be fine. Anyway, these little ones are just starting to show little fruit buds.

I really hope this variety is stable enough to offer seeds from this year. I hope I don't have to select and carry them over another year, but I suppose I will if I must, I have put too much work into it to give up on them.

 My oca plants are looking healthy and starting to bush out. I really hope I have a good year for them. I am testing every variety this year for heat tolerance and I hope some are good enough to offer for sale.
I will have half the plants under the covers and half out in the full sun.

Lastly, my peanuts are finally popping up. Last year the rabbits gave them hell so I wasn't able to evaluate my two varieties for production.
I was disappointed to find that I couldn't tell any difference in flavour between them. I was hoping that there would be more difference than just nut skin colour.
I have black skinned ones and red skinned ones.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Whew, sowing is finished

I have finally finished digging the beds and filling them up. Many seedlings are already sprouting and in a couple more weeks I will be able to see what needs replanting, hopefully very little.

I have been able to keep the earth mites in check with spray but I was hoping to be able to get some predatory mites to help deal with them. Unfortunately the predatory mites that will target them will only survive with warmer nights and the nights so far have been to cold to use them. I think that the nights are going to start warming up at the same time that the earth mites go dormant so I think it will be a waste of money to buy predatory mites this year.

Although the main block looks fairly clean and ready for growing I can see that a lot of nightshade and other weeds are sprouting heavily right now so I think it will be a busy year for hand weeding. Now that all the beds are full I will not be able to use weedicide from now on so it will be hoeing or down on my knees for the next few months.

Although the nights have been a bit cold my beds of beans are starting to show themselves now. There has been some snail damage but I shouldn't have to replant many.

I have put in the beans that stood up to the heat the best last year so these beds should be full and luscious in a month or two. I don't really like eating beans but they are satisfying to grow.

To stop the rabbits this year I am going to make up some hot chilli spray from dried chilies I have left over from a couple of years ago.

This year, instead of spending so much time planting corn seeds one by one, I have experimented with hand scattering the seed. I thought that since I lose a lot of seed to birds and mice that it might end up in bigger production and I will be able to afford to lose some seed or plants.

The beds are a bit crowded and I don't know yet if it is bad enough that I will have to thin, but it was so much faster - even though it used much more seed than individual planting.

I will keep you up to date on how this goes and how it affects production. And will update regularly with more pictures.

I have a lot of oca in this year and they are sprouting now too. I really hope they do better than last year.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Spring flowers and busy, busy times

Although I didn't manage to increase my growing area by much at all due to troubles getting rid of weedy and VERY persistent running grasses, this season I will finally have all my beds in production. Last year many of my beds were empty as I struggled to get rid of the last remnants of grass and are now ready to grow.

I am putting in a lot more varieties of vegetables like new eggplants, okra and beans as well as my old favourites. I will take some pics of the place next update.

With some unseasonable warm weather I have got everything in early and even have some seedlings up, but the earth mites are giving me hell :(

I have some pretty flowers brightening the place up, like these seed grown bearded iris. I love growing them from seed as you never know what you are going to get.

I know that most will get grubbed out as they are no better than what is already out there but I am enjoying the flowers as they come out anyway.

These are the first two of my seedlings. I have bought some pieces of some pretty named ones to get seed off next year.

Bearded iris are one of my favourite flowers though I wish they flowered for longer. At least you don't have to look after them as they are so tough that they can cope with anything.

Of the three varieties of 'Paeony' poppies I planted only this common pink variety survived. I think the seeds of the others were duds.

I think I might get more for next year as I am going to be saving seeds from more flowers as I have room.

With seedlings popping up all over the place now I will be posting more often from now on, and longer posts with more pics, so remember to come back every few days.

Monday, October 9, 2017

So busy planting and digging for spring

I am still busy planting my spring crops. Today I direct sowed some beds of capsicums, sweet sorghum and beans. I was going to leave the beans a bit longer but the temps are getting higher and I want them to be well established before the soil dries out. I think I will also start on the the okra and other warmer weather crops.

 I have a little bed of self sown 'Camo Oakheart' lettuce. I am not fond of this lettuce mix even though it looks spectacular because it is always bitter, no matter what I do to it or when it is planted. I will save some seed though as some weird people actually light lightly bitter salad greens.

It is so pretty that I always have to stop and look at them when I walk past the bed.

The Chines Mahogany (Toon) trees are shooting now. The shoots have a lovely, savoury flavour that goes particularly well with egg dishes but I also like to nibble them while I am working.

I think they would also be lovely in stir fries and perhaps in savoury salads. The trees are supposed to sucker badly so I am being careful what I plant near them as I won't be able to dig. They are not showing any sign of suckering yet but they are only young.

Mine are seed grown and have reddish shoots but I would love to get a couple of trees with the bright pink new growth that many people like about these trees in spring.

Everything is growing so fast with the nice weather... well, the grass and weeds at least. I will have to mow the walkways again tomorrow.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Yay, time to plant and the weather is perfect

The weather is warming up, actually a little warmer than expected, and my blocks are finally dry enough to dig. I am exhausted after spending much of the day with the rotary hoe, and planting. After doing nothing for the past three months or so even a little bit of physical work is very tiring.

It feels so nice to get out and actually get things done, and the weather is looking so nice that I decided to plant my corn a month early. As long as the temps keep up it will be nice to be able to harvest the ripe ears without having to race the mould causing dampness and cool of autumn.

I managed to plant 5 x 40m rows of oca as well as a couple of rows of arracacha.

I hope the oca flowers this year as I really want to harvest seed. It didn't last year and it flowers at different times each year. Not sure why, probably has to do with the temps or humidity.

I think I may have lost all my yacon because of the swampy conditions. It is a shame as I had some new seedlings, which are very rare. If any do survive I will have to start overwintering them in pots rather than in the ground.

I will be very busy in the next two weeks as I have a lot more to plant this year than last. My cucurbits will all go in this week but I might hold off another couple of weeks for the stuff that likes warmer conditions like beans, eggplant, okra and sorghum.

I still have a lot of digging to go but it will get done quickly now that I can walk on the ground.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Still waiting *sigh*

After more rain and the blocks turning back into mud I still haven't been able to get out the rotary hoe to dig up the beds for spring planting. I am hoping that a few more days will see everything firm enough to give it a go so I don't think I will be behind, not like last year when it was wet for much longer.

I should be able to get some of my cucurbits out soon at any rate as they seem to be able to cope with a bit of cold as long as there isn't frosts.

 Just to see what they are like I bought a chook run to cover with insect mesh to make hand pollinating easier. It was easy to put together, all I have to do now is get the mesh on.

If you are into DIY though, I think it would be cheaper and last longer to build one out of treated posts. Great for a backyarder though.

My poor oca are telling me that it is well and truely time to get planted out. I should be able to do that in a few days.

I am going to grow a lot of oca this year and do quite a bit of testing to see which ones do best in the open ground. I will also try to get more seed - I just hope the weather is good enough to get them to flower this season.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nearly planting time, yay

Finally, the nights are starting to warm up and we won't have many frosts to go. I have a few trays of cucurbits ready to plant and in a couple of weeks I will start sowing most of my other seeds.

 I had forgotten how wet our winters and early spring gets after the years of drought, so I am going to have to rethink my planting. Everything is still too wet to walk on and most of the plants I have in are rotting.
I think I will have to stop trying to grow biennials that have to go through the winter like carrots and brassicas - here is a pic of red Brussels sprouts rotting in the mud.

It is going to reduce my planned income but can't be helped.

My native mountain pepper bushes are still holding onto their berries so I harvested them to put in packets. The have more fruit on them than ever before and I am thinking of putting in a couple of rows just to sell the leaves and dried berries to local restaurants. At least they do well in the cold and wet - though they grow best under shade so that is an extra expense.

From now on I will be posting more updates because I will be busy working. It is always hard having to sit on my hands over the cold months.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Just a quick update

It is still far too wet to get on my blocks to do any work, except for a sunny day a few days ago after no rain for a few days. I did manage to do a heap of mowing without getting the lawnmower bogged, just.

 I know there is still a heap of frosts to go this month, and this winter the frosts have been colder than for the past few decades, but I am so impatient that I just had to get out a put a few seeds in trays.

Well, if they don't germinate or get burnt off I can still sow later.

I have been looking at my seed stores and taking out the seeds I am going to plant this spring. Writing out tags, and sorting is fun. Sometimes it is hard though to choose what to plant each year.

When the weather and temps improve and I have more to write about I will update, this time next month I will be very busy.

Monday, August 21, 2017

I'm getting sick of winter - but I do have a new fence

I am really getting sick of winter, just as I do every year at this time. I can't start sowing seed in trays for another couple of weeks and it is still six weeks away till I can start planting outside. It is hard to stay patient.

It is far too wet to do anything outside so I just have to go out occasionally and look at the boggy, waterlogged ground and hope that the few things I do have in the ground don't rot before the soil dries up a bit.

Just another few weeks, I keep telling myself.

On the plus side, I do have a brand new fence on one side of the property. That will stop the sheep getting through, and they put rabbit netting on so that will fix the rabbit problem, on that side anyway.

Now I just have to find enough money to do the other sides, and then hope the owner doesn't want to sell the place in the future before I am able to buy it, in which case I will have wasted the money.

My bed of 'Island Gem' lettuces are doing well and starting to head. They have been a bit slow because of the cold and wet but they still look good. I love this mix of mini heading lettuces, they look great with their colours, spots and stripes, and they are never bitter.

I do have a small bed of 'Camo Oakheart' lettuces in also but even though they look fantastic they just go bitter all the time, and I hate bitter lettuces.

I think I have posted about these before but they are quite ornamental. These are 'Singara' rat-tail radishes. The pods are much longer than the 'normal' rat-tails you can buy here, and they seem to be tenderer and better flavoured. They are definitely not as harsh.
Pity I just haven't been able to take good pictures that show the pods off well.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Winter update

Well, there still isn't much happening for now, and it is still a month before it is time to even start trays of seedlings, so I don't have much to write about.

Today was sunny so I got out and started weeding this bed of mini lettuce. There is only a few beds with anything in them so weeding is not such a big job right now. I am sure the weeds are waiting for a bit of warmth to start growing like triffids.

The only other crops I have in are the overwintering potatoes I grew from seed last season, some beets and the perennials like rhubarb and asparagus.

I am planning to put so much in this spring though and it will be amazing.
Since the ground isn't too boggy right now I put in some 10ft posts so I can put bird netting over the sorghum. Next year I will put up shadecloth and plant oca under them.

Eventually I will have a few of these shadehouses which will take the place of the removable row covers. It will be much more enjoyable to be able to walk and work under the shadecloth more easily.
Another plus is that they will cut a lot of the wind.
The neighbours and I pulled down the boundry fence because the posts were rotting off so I saved some of the good pieces of old rabbit netting and dug it in on the fence at the front of the property where a lot of the rabbits are getting in.

It will be good to eventually get the whole property rabbit proof but at least this is a start, and the neighbour has agreed to go halves in putting rabbit netting on the shared fence too so that will save me a little, even though it puts the price of the whole fence up.
I just have to hope that nothing happens to make the owner sell the property before I have a hope of buying it as it will be annoying to spend all the money on the place and have it wasted.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Getting ready for spring

There is still not much happening at the moment so you will have to forgive the very sporadic blogging.

I know that it is still quite a while till I start planting in October but since I am adding so much more growing area this year I have already started mowing a few more acres so I can get the grass sprayed and beds made.

I will not be able to afford the irrigation to this area but if the season is mild I should be able to get crops of watermelon and corn off it as they don't need much water.
The main problem will be trying to destroy all the crab grass and couch which is so hard to kill - and of course the rabbits and kangaroos coming up from the river nearby.

 I have a few seed grown rhubarb plants that I sowed just because I had some seed left over. Most of them will be pulled out later as they are not good enough but I notice that one plant has these pretty, feathery flowers and so I am leaving it just to see what the flowers do. Rhubarb flowers are tightly packed as they come out and this one just caught my eye.

This year I am growing a new variety of rat-tailed radish called 'Singara'. The pods are very long and more mild and tender than the other variety that I normally grow.

I am impressed with the flavour as it does not seem to be as harsh as my usual one.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Work trip and rainforests, part 2

While I was in Queensland I had a few days to spare over the weekend so Alf from Eden Seeds offered to show me some great rainforest walks. This is temperate to sub-tropical rainforest which has very different vegetation to our cool rainforests or temperate forests around here.
We went on two walks, one more dangerous than the other.

As I walked a leaf from this plant dropped down in front of me... and I nearly pooped myself. For those of you who live in a country besides Australia you may not realise that we have plants that are just as dangerous as some of our animals.
This is a stinging tree. The stinging hairs on the leaves are so agonising that animals and people have been known to throw themselves off cliffs to escape. The pain also lasts for weeks or months. Why would anyone go with crude pliers and screwdrivers when a better torture method would be these leaves - or our Irukandji jellyfish.

This terribly spiky vine is called 'Wait-a-while' or 'Lawyer' vine because if you get caught up in it you will be there for a while trying to get free. Many people don't realise that this is the vine used in basket weaving. As the older parts of the vine die the bark and spines slough off and it is smooth and gathered for use.

It always saddens me to think of all the massive trees that were logged in the past two hundred years. The trees of this area are HUGE both in girth and height.

Some are hollowed out by fire or rot but many here have had a strangler fig grow around them and the original tree has died of old age and rotted away, just leaving the fig. It takes around 200 years for a fig to completely cover a mature tree.

Birds drop a seed high in the tree and over time the figs roots grow down to the ground and thicken and meld together.

 This tree on the right is called the 'Wishing tree'.
Nearly all the huge rainforest tree species make these huge buttress roots to stabilise them in the shallow soil against cyclones.

One of the walks we went on was 12km carved from the side of the cliffs. The side of the walk was all vertical drops for 50 metres or more and very narrow so you have to walk single file all the way and there were no safety barriers or ropes.
You don't just push any fear of heights aside, you beat it down with a heavy, pointy stick.

There were heaps of rocks and roots on the track so you had to concentrate on your feet the whole way. At least if you trip your death would be fast and painless.

Last month a man didn't make it to the end of this walk and even though there were searchers they never found his body or where he fell off. Helicopters or drones are no use here with the trees.

I wish my camera could capture depth better so you can see just how dangerous and steep this track is.

The track is like this the whole way, only around 40cm wide so if you meet someone coming the other way you have to try to find a spot with a few extra cm and hold onto a small tree to allow them to pass.

It is terrifying, the drop off is straight down vertical and you can't see the bottom. In some sections like this one there are very tall trunks of palms so if you fall you have the added bonus of smashing into trees as you fall and making an even bigger mess of your body.

Here is a picture of a strangler fig that has half swallowed a tree. You can see how the roots thicken around the original tree.
Although many people think that these figs kill trees, and they probably do to young ones, they are so slow growing that it is more likely that the original trees die of old age before the fig completely takes over.

When the original tree has rotted away what you see is an old, huge fig that is hollow in the centre where the old tree was.