Monday, February 27, 2017

Are you sick of melons and tomatoes yet?

It looks like it is going to be scorching for the next week so I won't be getting anything done except watering - I see the water meter reader came round today so that is another bill coming soon. They never stop.
I am a bit worried about the new seeds I sowed last week as they haven't had enough cool weather to get a root down if they have germinated so I hope they don't burn off as some of them were the last seed I had.

Yesterday the Hamilton vintage car club came round to look at the farm as part of their monthly outing. There were about 40 members and they really enjoyed themselves. After the talk and walk they sat under the shady trees for a cuppa and chat - and I received a box of chocolates for my trouble. The easiest way to get on my good side is to give me chocolates, lol.

 As you know, I have a few of each of many melons in at the moment just to renew some of my old seeds and most of them are ripening now.

Here is a snake melon. It is a true melon that looks and tastes like a cucumber, and use it just as you would a cucumber.
Unfortunately one one hand pollinated fruit set but at least I will have some fresh seed for later.

One melon that I have not grown for years is 'Collective Farm Woman'. I wasn't sure that the seeds would germinate as they were so old but I got a few plants. - and these seem to be easy to hand pollinate so I have plenty of seeds now.

I like some of the Russian style melons with their firm, white flesh and apple-like flavours. Most of them also keep relatively well in the fridge which is a bonus at this time of year when I have melons coming out my ears.

I only put a few tomatoes in this year.
I haven't grown 'Juanne Flamme' before and since I am not impressed with its flavour I don't think I will again.
These are orange, very soft fleshed and very mild with no acidity. I don't like them at all. The plants a quite productive though.

I have to say the mice love them and any fruit on the ground are eaten as soon as they colour up.

The 'Wild Currant' tomatoes are huge bushes this year and it is too difficult to get inside to pick the inner ripe fruits so I will wait a little longer till the outer fruits ripen.
These are a favourite tomato with almost everyone. They are so sweet that you can just eat handfuls of them. I don't tend to bother with cherry tomatoes but this one is special.

Friday, February 24, 2017

New melons and sorghum

Hi again, I am taking advantage of these few cooler days to get a heap of work done before the very hot week to come. I am busy collecting and drying seed from tomatoes, melons, cucumbers and corn - what I was able to get growing anyway.

 My bed of broom sorghum is flowering now so it will not be long before I will have to net it so the birds don't strip all the seeds. I am not sure how successful I will be as the plants are much taller than I can reach.
I will put rows of star droppers down the sides and put hoops over them, then attach the netting to them. The netting won't reach to the ground on the sides so I will have to sew two rows together.
It won't hurt that the seed heads will be bent over as I will not be making brooms out of them anyway.

My melons are ripening now and here is one of my new varieties. I haven't named it yet.
I was hoping that this one would be a good commercial variety but the skin is too thin to ship and store so it will be a backyard one.

It tastes a lot sweeter than the brix rating suggests which shows that the sensation of sweetness is controlled by a number of factors, not just sugars.
The flesh is thick and soft with no fibre, and it is surprisingly stable for the amount of generations I have been improving it. I think it will be ready to go after next season.

This is another of mine. I am not sure I will keep it as the seed cavity is a bit too large. It is a small size, just right for one or two people and very sweet but without the muskiness that some people don't like.

I don't have any pics of some of the others with green flesh (which I prefer) and other skin colours but I will put them up later.

I will put up a post soon showing all the bush bean varieties that I trialed this season when I get around to tasting them but I just wanted to show you a pic of this amazing pinto bean - 'Crow River'. It is the most productive bean I have ever seen. it literally bears itself to death and the plants are covered in pods.
This is a definite for me next season.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Heat tolerant oca and bush snake beans

I have a problem. After my successful open weekend followed by two markets I have just about run out of seed. I know it is a good position to be in but I am embarrassed by the thought that I will have to buy in seed to put in packets for the markets in the next couple of months. The trouble is that the seed I buy in will be the sort of seed my customers can buy on heritage seed seller websites and nothing really different like what they are used to seeing on my stall. Oh well, there is not much I can do about it.
I will definitely have to plan better in the future.

 My bush snake beans are bearing very well. I have isolated ten plants for fresh picking so I can measure just how much my customers should be able to harvest all season per square metre.

So far I have picked a kilo off those few plants since they started flowering. It may not sound like much but they are small plants and you don't need many beans for a meal so they are doing well. I am very interested in what the total amount of green beans off them will add up to at the end.

I am finally seeing a few more heat tolerant oca plants this year. It has helped that the summer has gone back to normal and we are not getting weeks on end of scorching temps.

If I can select a couple of heat tolerant ones each year that produce well it won't be long till people will be able to plant a few colours in their gardens outside with few worries. I think I will plant a lot more seeds next spring and plant them all without shadecloth and see just how many I can get to grow.

I have found that to beat the stem rot that oca is prone to in hot weather you have to mulch them deeply with straw. It keeps them dormant for a bit longer in spring but that is a good thing as the later you plant them in spring the healthier the plants tend to be.

With the total failure of my ulluco crop I will be concentrating more on oca probably.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Peanuts, vivid choi, and other things

After a few more hot days it looks like we are in for some pleasant summer weather for the next week which I am looking forward to. It might even be cool enough to get some brassica seedlings planted out. It will be good to get back to work after my open weekend, a few hot days and a visit to Portland to get my dental check up.

 I planted a dozen peanut plants in December. It was too late but the weather wasn't warm enough before that and I didn't want to risk keeping them til next spring.
Unfortunately a rabbit has got a taste for them and munched the tops out of all of them so I think I will not get any peanuts anyway. This is all that is left of the plants.

This is the fourth generation of my Vivid Choi project. The leaves of this vegetable are very strong mustard tasting but the roots are mild so I am trying to select for bigger roots.

It is slowly working but I am losing the colours in the roots unfortunately. The bunched tops are because rabbits ate them off while they were small and before they became too strong in flavour.

Yesterday I dug up a small bed, selected the best roots and replanted for them to flower.

I put a few 'Tiny Tim' tomatoes in this year for some reason. The flavour of these is ok but nothing special, it is the tiny, bushy growth habit that is the interesting part.
These are perfect for anyone who does not have a garden and has to grow everything in pots. These tomatoes bear like crazy and look spectacular when covered in ripe fruit.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Open day and saving seed from cucurbits

I am so sorry it has been so long since I updated my blog. I have to blame my sister who gets on my back when I am a bit behind, lol.

My open weekend was a big success. Almost all the people I expected to come did, nearly 100 people. Great for living in such a tiny town I think.
People came from far away like Ballarat, Narracourte and Warrnambool as well as closer towns. Thank you everyone who made the effort.

I think everyone enjoyed themselves and the weather was perfect. I sold lots of seeds and the coffee van was kept busy.

Today was the busier day and I am hoarse from all the talking. I am exhausted and looking forward to bed tonight.

There is only so much I can say about the open day so after I got home I decided to get into taking the seeds out of some 'Mini White' cucumbers that I had been meaning to get to.

It is easier to save seeds from all cucurbits by fermenting them. All you do is wait till the fruits are fully mature with tough, dark skins and even with some soft spots, then cut them in half and scoop out the seeds.
Place the seeds in a bowl and add a little bit of water if there is not much juice.

Stir them every day for about 3-4 days until there is a light foam of mould on the top. If there is a solid layer of mould on the top you should stir them more often.

Then add water to the bowl or tub and pour out the floating crap. The good seeds will sink to the bottom so they are pretty easy to separate. You will need to add water and pour off the rubbish a few times till the seeds are clean, then strain and lay them on a plate or tray in a single layer to dry for at least two weeks, or until the seeds snap when you try to bend them.

Sometimes this process can be smelly. especially with cucumbers so you might need to do this outside or in your garage, or some other spot where the smell is not going to be a problem.

You can easily save seed from melons, cucumbers, pumpkins as well as members of the tomato family this way.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Open day, cucumbers, and zinnias

Well, everything is looking fine for my open weekend on the 11th and 12th. The coffee van I had booked pulled out so people will just have to be happy with cold drinks but except for all the empty beds I should have quite a bit to show people.

My hand pollinating has finished now as the plants have all the fruit on them they can handle and all new fruits are aborting. Some melons I have not been able to get any hand pollinated fruits on should make a new flush of flowers later so I will get another chance at them. I started getting quite a few hand pollinated fruits set but many of them suddenly died off so I obviously didn't get enough pollen onto them.

 I keep trying 'Little Potato' cucumber but every year they die off with a disease after only making a couple of fruits. I am hoping that if I keep persisting that I will get some harder plants surviving but it hasn't happened so far. I hope their genetic pool is not to narrow.

I grow these for something different even though they are nothing special in taste, nice but a bit too mild for my mother who is mycucumber taste tester.

As you know I have been growing a few flowers for seed and I am really liking growing zinnias. I don't know why they are not more popular. They come in a huge range of colours and are long lasting in vases without dropping pollen everywhere.
I think I have mentioned them in my blog on another post and I will grow some other varieties next spring.
Flowers will never be more than just a small interest but they are something pretty in among the veggies.

I planted a row of portulacas in my parents garden. Here is a few metres of them.
They are so pretty and love the heat but I won't be growing them for seed, it is so difficult to harvest. I think they will self seed nicely for next year though.

I think I will keep my flower growing to zinnias, bearded iris, gladiolus, nasturtiums and snapdragons.

I must also tell you that I was very excited to receive a few precious Mashua seeds (Tropaeolum tuberosum). This is a type of nasturtium that produces edible tubers.
Most people don't like the taste but I have been keen to try them anyway.