Saturday, December 23, 2017

Asparagus, and gooseberries, and Happy Holidays :)

Just got back from visiting my sister and her family to give them their presents, then went out to find that many of my vegetables were a bit sad so I irrigated about half the seed block, I will do the rest tomorrow morning.
I am happy that I have saved on a couple of months of water with the rainy weather lasting so long into spring this year.

 I am still getting a few spears of my asparagus. I grow two varieties - Purple Passion, and Argenteiulle. Both of them are very good varieties and produce many big spears.

Purple passion is tender and sweet and perfect for eating raw, and Argenteiulle is a high producer (both male and female plants) and is also tender and a great eater.
I am going to put in a large bed of each next year as I have found that seed sells well in packets.

'Captivator' gooseberry is usually such a poor producer that it really is not worth growing, but this year for the first time it is loaded with fruit.
The fruit ate nice to eat but it is not worth growing if it only fruits every few years so I will not grow more than this single plant.

I do have another variety but I don't know the name of it, and the plants were a bit neglected last winter so have not fruited. I look forward to eating them next year.

My 'Phoenix' nasturtiums are going gangbusters. They are absolutely covered in flowers.
I only got two colours (yellow and orange) but I will buy some more seeds next year to see if I can get more.
I love the fancy petals on them.

Have a lovely Christmas period everyone. I will not be posting again until new year.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Arracacha flowering, and beans

The weather is still lovely, with hot days interspersed with cooler ones, though we are getting more and more hot ones now. This morning was the first time I had to put on the irrigation, and that was just for the beds with seedlings in.

For the first time, and it is so rare that most other people never see it - a couple of my arracacha plants have put up flower stems.
I am so excited and I really hope that I get seeds from them.
I love arracacha and I think that if I can find a market grower who is willing to grow it and market it, it could be the next big thing.
Since it is a tetraploid there is a chance that any seed I get will lead to a new and better variety for my growing conditions.

This year, to save on time and the risk of crossing, I have bought a heap of cheap mossie nets to cover my melons for hand pollinating. This will help with time as I will not have to go out in the evening the night before to clamp the flowers shut to pollinate the next morning.
Some of the melons are just starting to flower so I will soon know if this is the best way to go.

The nets don't look pretty because of their shape but as long as they do the job I don't care.

Some of the beans are now setting pods so I should be able to harvest them before I need to waste water on irrigating them, yay.
This particular one is 'Devil Fin Precoce. it is the only green bean that I have found copes well with the heat, though there are a couple of dry bean varieties that are up there.

I am growing a lot more beans this year, the ones that grew in the heat the best last summer.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Taste testing my zucchinis

With my zucchinis bearing heavily I decided to bring some inside and do a taste test.
I am growing three zucchini varieties this year as well as Zucca di Albenga (Tromboncino) which are not ready yet but I will add what I remember from last time I ate them.

I have rated them from 1 to 5 with 3 being average, basically similar to most other zucchini. I rated them on taste and texture, both raw and cooked (fried in butter till golden and tender with no other flavourings). They were all at the stage where the flower was just falling off.

 Yellow ball (one ball)

This is the second year I have grown these from my own seed.
Flavour raw: very bland  2
Flavour fried: sweet 4
Texture raw: Butter firm 3
Texture fried: watery soft 2

Over all: I prefer these picked a bit bigger when the skin is firmer, stuffed and baked. I didn't like them when young like this.

This is my own variety that I will be releasing next year.

Flavour raw: Sweet 4
Flavour fried: medium 3
Texture raw: buttery firm 3
Texture fried: buttery soft 3

Over all: Overall I liked this one, especially raw where it would be good cubed in a garden salad.

This is also my own variety which should be ready for release in a couple of years.

Flavour raw: bland, slightly nutty 3
Flavour fried: med 3
Texture raw: med firm 3
Texture fried: med firm 3

Over all: Not much different than any other zucchini you would buy in the supermarket. Eyecatching colour though.

Zucca di Albenga
This is a butternut relative that is used as a zucchini when immature. Other butternuts can also be used like this.

Flavour raw: nutty, mild 3
Flavour fried: nutty 4
Texture raw: firm 4
Texture fried: firm 4

Over all: Always my favourite as zucchini.

Although I liked Caesar, my favourite is Zucca because it is less watery than 'normal' zucchini, and it has a better flavour. I am not keen on the blandness of zucchinis in general.
The Rascal was average and ok but I didn't like yellow ball at all, though I liked it stuffed and baked last year..

Sunday, December 10, 2017

It's all happening now. Summer is here.

Although some plants are not growing as quickly as I would like due to the continuing cool nights, there is still a lot happening. Nearly all my beds are planted and I am busy trying to clear another bit of room from running grass for the Autumn broad beans and garlic.
From tomorrow summer hits with hot weather which will finally get my poor okra plants growing properly. The ground is still damp enough that I won't have to irrigate till after Christmas.

 I am really low on seeds for my monthly market stall in Ballarat so I have had to do one last raid on my seed stores. Been busy putting a heap of seeds in packets just to make my stall look just a bit better.
At least now I will have some fresh veg to make a display on the tables for interest. I doubt I will get many sales now though as most people have put all their veg in. I just have to show my face.

With all the new veggies I have put in this season I will have plenty of new stuff for my stall from Autumn on, and my sales there helps me to judge what my commercial seed buyers may want later. I get to see trends develop and some of the market gardeners who attend the market can see if I have anything they might want to try later.

It has been four years since I last planted 'Zucca di Albenga' pumpkin (or Tromboncino) but many people at the market have asked for seed so I thought I should put some in this year. I love this pumpkin both for its flavour and its versatility but the down side is that the female flowers all face downward so they don't open freely and bees can't get in them - this means that every flower has to be hand pollinated.
Luckily this year I don't have as many melons for hand pollinating so I have time for this one in the morning.

This is my mother holding a fruit from last time I grew them. They are very ornamental as well as good to eat.

The good things about this pumpkin are:
1, you can eat them immature as a zucchini. They are even better than a zucchini as they are firm and taste better.
2, You can wait till they mature and use them like butternut pumpkin, of which they are a type.
3, After cutting they can be left out on the kitchen counter and stay good without rotting for a long time. This is handy as they are too big to put in the fridge.
4, Female flowers that are not pollinated still grow, though they don't produce a seed filled bump, and can be used as zucchini. This is great for flowers that missed being hand pollinated.

The rabbits haven't found my peanuts yet. They are starting to flower - well the red skinned variety is, the black skins are a bit smaller and slower to mature.
I really hope I get a good crop this year and the rabbits stay away.
I really enjoyed growing them last year, and I think I will put in a heap of rows next year.

My favourite cucumber, the 'mini White' are starting to set fruit. The cold nights mean that the plants are still very small but they produce right through the season so they will get a lot bigger.

These cucumbers are so sweet that you would think they had sugar added, but they still have a full cucumber flavour. It is my mums favourite and she is fussy about cucumbers.
I don't like cucumber but I have to admit that I do like this one.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Corn and other stuff

The weather continues to be perfect, well, almost. Most of the nights are still well below the temps that many of the veggies like and they are not growing as fast as they should be. I am a bit worried about the few okra plants that survived as they really prefer much warmer weather.

 I have finished harvesting the 'Bear Necessities' kale seed so I have mowed the beds down which mulches up the old plants and adds the organic matter back to the soil. This way of treating the old plants is really paying off as my soil on this block is getting better and better. It is hard to think that only three years ago it was pure sand.

I have enough time to rotary hoe these couple of beds and plant something else there before Christmas. Might go for melons.

The 'Painted Mountain' flour corn is starting to flower now, it is always the first.
I love this corn, not only because the cobs are so pretty, but because the plants are so tough and quick growing. It also copes with germinating in cooler temps than other corn so you can get it in earlier.

Just finished harvesting the 'Senoritas Hat' broad beans. I didn't plant much broad beans this year because I had a few small amounts of seed of some varieties that I had to grow out and didn't want them crossing.
Next year I will do some big plantings as I have a company want to buy some seed of interesting broad bean varieties.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pea beans and dwarf choi

I am listening to the rain on the roof again. We are having some weird weather, and I hope it keeps up although the rain mixed with heat is making it very muggy. I am reminded of the weird summer we had about six years ago where we had tropical weather all summer with afternoon rain and storms.

 These are pea beans, the plants look EXACTLY like peas, with the same foliage, growth habit and pods, but the seeds are bi-coloured beans. it is very unusual. I am tempted to think that it is in a separate family like some botanists still do, though it was put into the P. vulgaris some time ago.

The purple flowers are quite pretty and this is the first year growing some so I am eager to see how they produce.

They are supposed to have a very unusual and pleasant flavour so that is another thing to look forward to.

It is hard to see in this pic but this is my short row of cotton plants. I put these in just for a bit of fun and it will be interesting to see how they go.

I will be giving up on growing most brassicas now as they don't survive the wet in winter, but there are some fast growing ones like this extra dwarf choi that I will still be able to grow.

It is very fast growing and tender to eat. Great for stir fries and salads. The whole plant is only half as big as your hand at eating size.

Just a quick pic of part of my seed block. The weeds are growing fast but with a lot of work I am nearly keeping on top of them.

With this rain I won't have to start irrigating till Christmas which will keep some costs down and the soil is keeping nice and moist.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

zucchinis and nasturtium

I am loving the weather at the moment - well... apart from not being able to harvest my garlic. We are having some nice rain every week which, combined with the hot temps is keeping everything humid and the plants are loving it.
With the huge amount of weeds in the garlic I figured that the only way to harvest it is to mow it all down then fork up the beds. It would be a hundred times easier if the soil was dry.

I wrote about the 'Phoenix' naturtium that I am growing this yer, well, the other one I got in was 'Black Velvet', shown here.

It is a smaller and bushier plant with very dark red flowers. They are very pretty. I am not sure whether the plants are supposed to be small, or the growing conditions are not to their liking but they need to put on a lot more growth if they will get big enough to collect a decent amount of seed.

One of the plants of my new zucchini variety 'Caesar' has gigantic flowers. I think I will keep the seeds separate to see if people would be interested in a larger flowered variety for eating the flowers. I will see if I have enough room next year to do some experimenting with it.

I am a bit disappointed in my 'Rascal' variety this year. I was hoping they would be stable enough to offer seeds from it after this season but, unfortunately, I am only getting 60% correct type of fruit this year. I understand that the genetics of the bicolour are difficult but I was hoping for better.

If they are no better next year I might have to offer them just as a backyarder vegetable as there is only so many years I can spend on them before they have to pay for themselves.

My zucchinis are loving the weather but I am worried about the risk of powdery mildew. At least I will find out if they have any resistance to it at all.

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.