Tuesday, January 31, 2017

With a couple of cool days I started planting out some of my trays of brassicas, tomorrow should be only 23 degrees too so they should survive though I will water them again anyway.
I picked my first cob of corn today, Painted Mountain which was very colourful. The corn is not suffering nearly as much as it was last year in the heat and drought, some are not even under irrigation and still ok so far.

I picked the first Giant tomatillo (Plaza Latina) today. This one was just for taking a photo of, I leave the others for seed a bit longer to let the seed mature better.

This variety does not bear as well as the yellow ones I showed you on the last post but they are spectacular in size. They work well in stir fries or salsa as they are not as sweet as the yellow, but a bit tart, and can be used as you would use capsicums.

The dwarf red snake beans are bearing well. They plants are still a bit small but they haven't let that stop them. I like this variety as they bear at the top of the plant which makes picking easy.

These are a really nice green been with no strings but you have to be careful not to over cook them, just a minute or two in a steamer or stir fry.

The cooler summer means that the scarlet runner beans are setting pods already. Usually they are at least another month off.

Scarlet runners produce large pods that are great to eat while they are still firm and snap easily, or wait till they are ripe and use as a dry bean. The dry beans must be cooked well like many other types of beans that should not be eaten undercooked. Don't let that put you off though as they are very nutritious like all beans.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bits and pieces

I am just patiently waiting for a few days of cooler weather before planting out a few trays of autumn/winter seedling veggies - brassicas, aquilegias, violas and stuff. With the temps in the low thirties it is just a bit hot for transplanting but next week might be right.

Apart from the hand pollinating of the melons and irrigating twice a week I don't have a lot to do except a bit of weeding. Summer tends to consist of mainly sitting indoors in the heat and watering in the evening but this year we have had milder weather that I am really enjoying.

 I don't have many cucumbers in as the spring was far too cold but I managed to get a couple of plants of both mini white cucumbers (pictured) and small potato cucumbers going.
The mini whites are very sweet and my mother loves them.

The small potato cukes are suffering again with the heat and spider mites. They have to be the worst cukes for pest and disease problems but I am going to keep growing them and hopefully select for better toughness.

I know I have mentioned the 'Amarilla' tomatillos some posts ago but now they are in full ripening mode I am really liking them. The fruits are bigger than I expected and very sweet. I got my refractometer out and they tested at a surprising 9 brix.
The problems with this variety are that the fruits are loved by slugs, snails and some sort of worm/caterpillar, and the branches get so heavy with fruit that they break off easily, oh, and the fruits contain very few seeds.

They are so sweet that I doubt they are the best for salsa but would go perfectly in fruit salads or jam.

I decided to grow a couple of 'Tiny Tim' tomatoes this year even though I am not a great fan of the taste and bush but many people only have a tiny garden or balcony to grow things in pots and these do fit the bill.

The plants do look good when covered with fruit, I have to give them that, but the taste is a let down and the fruit tends to be bunched in the centre of the plant which makes it a pain to harvest as you knock off the green fruits when trying to find and pick the ripe ones.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Well, there goes my seed drying shed

After losing a couple of fillings in the last couple of weeks I decided to go to the dentist to see what is going on. I suppose I have had it too good lately and needed a bit of bad news :(

Apparently my mouth is a catastrophe waiting to happen with one tooth needing to be pulled and a couple of fillings replaced immediately. I have to find a couple of thousand dollars in the next two weeks for the first appointment with the rest of the work (most of my ancient fillings have a lot of decay under them) and another four thousand dollars done over the next two years as I can afford it.

At least this dentist, who I haven't been to before, is very thorough and explains everything that has to be done and what will happen if it doesn't.

There is no way I am going to be able to afford to finish building my seed drying shed for at least another year now. I am going to struggle to find the money just for this dental work.

If you have been ready my blog over the past couple of months you may remember that I started a trial of bush bean varieties to see which ones would cope with our hot summers.
I did lose a couple of varieties to rabbits but the experiment itself is going well. All the heat sensitive ones have died now and I have five varieties left that are doing well and bearing pods. I will list them next post but two that I do remember are 'African Premier', a dry bean,  and 'Devil Fin Precoce' a green bean with pretty striped pods.

I have learned a lesson with my mauka - don't fertilise it!!

Last year these plants did very well without fertiliser all season but I planted them all into fertilised soil this spring and now most of them have collapsed. I can't think of any other reason for the collapse.

Luckily a few stems of most of them are coming back but I suspect that I will get a VERY poor harvest. Ah well, live and learn.

Friday, January 20, 2017

What happens when you buy seed off Ebay

After having an inch of rain last night I am still so happy with the weather. I can see that my Autumn planting and the seed from that is going to be marvelous. I have been busy getting beds ready and have a heap of seedlings coming up in trays. Yesterday I planted a row of scorzonera. The garlic is nearly all in and things are looking very good.

Late afternoon is not the best time to be taking pictures but anyway, this is a row of broom sorghum (sometimes called broomcorn). I love growing this as the heads are very showy and ornamental, and they can be used to make brooms if you so desire.
The only problem is that the parrots love it and I have to net it every time.
It looks like corn when it is this young but very different when the seed heads form. This is supposed to be a multi-coloured form but there really is not much difference in the brown shades.
 I think I will buy a heap more bird netting and grow a lot more next year.

Buying from Ebay can be a bit of a lottery. People selling seed they saved in their back yards are not the best people to buy from but I really need this watermelon (Yellow Flesh Moon and Stars) as I have misplaced my own seeds.

The picture at the bottom is the correct colour for this variety, a dark green with yellow spots.
The top melon in the same pack of seeds is striped with spots. I don't know what it was crossed with but it is a damn nuisance.

Now I have to breed back to the correct type before I can even think to sell seeds of it. I don't even know if the fruits of either are yellow inside yet.
Half the plants have striped fruit and half dark green.

My little patch of Scarlet Runner beans next to the house is starting to flower now. It will look great when the plants fill out.

They don't usually pod up very well in our heat but this year they just might if the weather stays relatively mild.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Chufa and melon pollination

Things are finally coming together for my open day next month. I have rotary hoed a heap of beds so things are a bit tidier, and started planting. Today while I was irrigating I got a few beds of garlic in as well as a bed of scorzonera. Tomorrow will be too hot to do much so I will just get the last couple of garlic beds in and go home and veg out for the day.

A few weeks ago I got in some new and bigger varieties of chufa as mine aren't as big as I would like.
I know it is a bit late but I planted half of them in pots so I can get a head start next year. If they are not mature by the time frosts come I can move the pots into the greenhouse to finish.

I am excited to get some new varieties to offer. I love chufa - the tubers taste just like almonds.

The melon plants are still small but right now they are starting to look like they are covered in pink flowers.
Usually it takes 5-6 hand pollinations to get one to take but this year most of them are taking. I am so happy. I think the reason is a combination of two factors, 1, many of the flowers this year have both male and female part, this is not uncommon but it is more frequent this year, and 2, I have changed my hand pollination technique.

I am starting to get a few hand pollinated fruits now so I can let some of the accidental naturally pollinated fruits grow for the table and to give away.
I like using this type of tag as I can write details on it when crossing. many people use coloured string or small tags and have to be more careful with their records.

My rare potato seedlings are starting to get big enough to plant out which I will do on Wednesday when it is a bit cooler.
I will end up with about a hundred I think. I lost a heap to a fungal infection at the start but they seem to be going well now.

Can't wait to see the colours of the tubers in the winter. There is already a range of stem colours so I should get some pretty potatoes. These are supposed to taste amazing so that is also something to look forward to.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

ball zucchini and tomatillos

Back again.
I have finally received a box of seed envelopes after having one lost in the post. I was beginning to think I will have to go to the Talbot market on Sunday with hardly any seeds. Now I will spend the evening butting a lot of seed in packets so I will be ready.

 My few ball zucchini are bearing well. I put in half a dozen mixed plants just to check them out and ended up with mostly yellow fruited ones and one green. I did replant a couple and I hope they will have different fruit soon.

So far I am impressed. They are pretty productive, and pretty. A good size for one person.

My tomatillos are starting to ripen now. This is a yellow, Polish one called 'Amarylla'. It is very sweet, without the tartness of other tamarillos but it does slightly irritate the throat - maybe that is just me though. Maybe when it is cooked that will disappear.
I also have the giant variety 'Plaza Latina' which I planted a bit later so they are not ready yet.

With hardly any cucurbits making it this year I am glad a couple of these mini white cucumbers made it so I will have more seed next year.
Unfortunately the fruits so far have had no seeds but often when that happens the later fruit do.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mini watermelons and flower seed

Sorry, after the long Christmas break it is taking me a while to get back into the regular blogging. The weather has been hot so I have been busy watering but I have also started putting seeds in trays for planting out in a few weeks - brassicas, alpine strawberries and asparagus so far.

I am waiting on a bit of cooler weather to get out and clean up the very neglected town blocks, they are so messy right now that I am embarrassed and In hope the owners don't get on my back. I need these blocks so I can offer the diversity of seed that I want but I can't wait to find a business partner some time because it is all getting on top of me - and I am so messy and disorganised that I need someone in the business who is neat and organised to offset those flaws.

 I picked my first very rare mini watermelon today. The plant got heavily infested with spider mite and died so the melon is a little underripe and not as sweet as it should be but it is still good.

Since the plant only produced one fruit it is bigger than it should be but still only weighed 1.5kg.
The amazing thing about these melons is the tiny seeds that are as small as passionfruit seeds. You don't even notice them when you eat it.

I still have a couple more plants outside which are just setting fruit now so I should have plenty of seeds to play with next year.

 As some of you know, I have been starting to get into flowers for seed and one that I have started with is zinnia 'Bonbon'.
It is a nice bushy plant to about 60cm tall and the white, cream and yellow, semi double flowers have red specks and stripes.
I would have liked a bigger colour range but they are still pretty. I have had some flowers in a vase for a week and they still look as good as the day I picked them. I love flowers that stay well in a vase but don't shed pollen all over the place.

If these are fairly easy to collect seed from I think I will be planting more beds next year, probably of two or three varieties. My only concern at the moment is that bees are taking no interest in them so I am not sure how much seed I am going to get.

The other flower I am growing for seed is snapdragon 'Brighton Rock'. I love this colourful snapdragon but the dust-like seed is so difficult to harvest.

I have a problem this year that Some of the colours haven't germinated. All the plants that have grownare red, yellow, and red and yellow striped. The whites and white striped ones didn't make it. I will have to buy another packet to mix in for next year to bump up the colours.
I only grew a half row this year to make sure I really want to bother with harvesting seed to sell as it is so frustrating. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Summer is finally starting

Well, at long last we are starting on 'normal' summer weather. The next week at least, and probably much longer are forecast to be between 30 and 40 degrees every day. I have put up the shadecloth row covers over all the sensitive plants and now I just have to wait it out.
This will test the couple of beds of mauka, ulluco and oca that I have left uncovered just to test how long they will survive in our summer.

It has been so cool that my lotus plant is only now starting to show a couple of flower buds. I suppose it did have a bit of a shock when I pulled up a heap of its tubers to sell so maybe I should give it a bit of leeway.

The first of my seed grown gladiolus plants are flowering. They are so easy to grow from seed that I will be doing a lot more in the future.
Unfortunately most of these flowers turned out to be the same colour pink but with hand pollinating next year that will change. The seed that I took to grow these came from a single plant in someones backyard.

Growing some of the usually vegetatively propagated flowers is fun and I will be doing a lot more. You have seen the results of my bearded iris already.

My mauka is a bit slow because of the cool conditions but they are starting to get away now.
The red variety is a much stronger grower than the others and seems to be tougher in the sun so far.
I do have a couple of other colours which I am testing out and one of them shows promise too, but another had stems that rotted in the humid conditions we had a week or so ago. I will have to remember that when I mulch them next year.

With all the green grass around this year after the wet conditions the rabbits have multiplied hugely. They have eaten off most of my beans and found this bed of germinating chufa. Obviously hey liked the taste of the tubers as they have done a good job of digging them up.

With all the green feed they will not take baits so I am worried about how much damage they are going to do this year.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A new year and a new beginning on the farm

I'm Baaaack

And a happy new year to you all. I hope you have a great one :)

I am loving the mild summer weather we have been having, that is a first, lol. Usually I start every post off with a rant about the weather. Up til now it has been fairly cool with only a couple of days touching 40 c. In a few days it will get to those temps again but I am happy if we just keep getting a couple of hot days then cool ones, rather than our usual weeks of hot weather at a time.

I am very hopeful for the year to come on the farm. After the drought, then floods, then such a cold spring that all my planting was 2-3 months late so all my cold sensitive plants were a write off, I am still happy and even though I have to start again with no seed to sell to speak of I think things will get a lot better. Even though I have little in the ground and won't have sany seed to sell next winter I can see the next seed harvest after that as a great one.

I am having an open day in Feb. Normally I would expect that the farm would be overflowing with ripening beans, melons, capsicums and pumpkins, this year I think I will be showing everyone what happens when everything goes wrong - and that is important too.

My first seed grown loquat has ripened its fruits. They are pretty good, not quite as good as its parent and a bit more seedy but still worth keeping. It is not as 'apricotty' as the mother tree but still sweet and my parents were impressed too.
I really like loquats and the trees are nice to look at also. They stall green and lush all year round.

I have started hand pollinating the miserable few melons that managed to survive the cold. These are the tomato clips I use to close the male and female flowers that I will be using the next morning. I go out the night before and put clips on the flowers that will be opening the next day so the bees don't get to them first.

All the melons are looking very poor but I don't have much seed so I have to hope they each produce at least a couple of melons.

 The farm is looking weedy but very bare with so few plantings surviving. At least I will be starting to put in the brassicas in a couple of weeks and that will fill it up.

The cool weather has allowed the weeds to explode and having a lot of bare beds means that I can get them under control before the new plantings go in.
There are still so many weed seeds in the soil after years of neglect that it will take a couple of years before the place looks neat.

The last seed of the few brassicas that survived the wet are getting harvested. This is a small, red cabbage called 'kalibos'. In a week I will have it all in and I can chop down the old plants.

One of the great things about the cold and wet weather we have had is the proliferation of frogs I am finding among the plants. I have to be careful harvesting the seed.