Sunday, November 18, 2018

mini dwarf choy, pineberries and more

With drier weather lately I have started regular irrigation three times a week, mostly on the younger seedlings but also on anything else that looks like it needs it. There is still some moisture in the ground but after the disaster last year I am happy to pay for too much water than not enough.

The days are getting nice and warn even though the nights are still mostly under 10 degrees. At least over the past couple of cold nighted springs I am able to get a good idea of what will germinate under cool nights. One surprise has been okra which I would have though is very intolerant of cool nights but although they are slow, they have germinated very well.


 The oca is starting to grow well under the new shade structure and it is so nice being able to hoe and weed standing up. I can imagine that is is going to be pleasurable working under it in summer.

I also have a row of cucumbers and arracacha under there also as they don't like hot summer sun.






One of my favourite vegetables to grow in mini dwarf choy. it grows fast, is mild, crisp, and tender to eat, and takes up so little room. The only problem as a seed grower is how little seed you get from an area because the plants are so small and don't make a lot of seed each.

Seed buyers are used to paying a certain amount for brassica seed and I think they are going to balk a bit when I charge them double or more for this one. It might be one to sell directly to market gardeners maybe. I think they would love it.

I think I did sell a small amount to one seed buyer last year but I plan to grow a lot more this coming season.

I have been growing it for years but only in small amounts for my own seed packets but it is far too go a vegetable to keep to myself and I think more people should grow it.

It is great in salads or stir fries, and the shredded leaves make a good cabbage substitute in coleslaw.


The pineberries are starting to fruit now but the seeds aren't turning red, probably because the leaves are so big and shading the fruit.

They are so vigorous and run everywhere. it doesn't take long for a single plant to fill up an entire bed, keeping in mind that you have to grow them with other 'normal' strawberries as they are not self fertile (hmm, I must actually test that).

They are so delicious that I can't stop eating them but I must save some seed this year to see what I end up with when I sow them.


 The Story of Potato Seedling D154, week 9

It won't be long now till this little seedling gets its first flower buds. Some of its siblings are already showing buds.
The siblings on both sides of this one are showing some yellowing leaves of a nutrient deficiency so I will fertilise the bed this week, but this tough little fellow is looking quite happy - no signs of disease, bugs or deficiencies.

They are only small but seedlings tend to grow a lot more while they are flowering and do end up as full sized plants over the season.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

As if my poor potatoes haven't suffered enough - Brown Leaf spot

After the worst aphid attack I have ever had on my potatoes that devastated many of my plants they were just starting to recover when the cool and moist nights have brought a new problem that is just as bad, Potato Brown Leaf Spot.

This is a disease that is related to early blight, and looks similar to it, but not quite as damaging. The cool nights are set to continue for a while yet but when it gets drier the potato plants should recover.
The bad thing is that the spores will be everywhere now and since it has a wide range of hosts I don't think I will ever get rid of it.

The good thing is that I have been able to identify quite a number of plants that seem to be either resistant or at least tolerant of the disease so I can concentrate on breeding more like that. Hopefully this disease struck early enough that the plants have not begun to make tubers that would be damaged by the disease.

Luckily it seems that all my diploids are resistant as I haven't got a single leaf spot on any of them. It is quite interesting.



My garlic harvest is under way. It is always satisfying to get them out of the ground and admire the healthy bulbs.

Luckily I have an old woolshed on the property so I can dry them on the slatted floors in there and there is heaps of air flow without being damp.

I really should have planted more beds but I was worried that I wouldn't have enough clear beds to put my spring seeds in. next year I should have plenty as I have cleared some more area for beds.









The white alpine strawberries are bearing prolifically this year and the plants are bigger and healthier than I have eve seen them. Same goes for the bed of pineberries. It is going to be a good season for fresh strawberries as well as seed.








After writing in my last post that I might have to delay sowing my summer seeds because the seasons are changing and the nights staying too cold for longer, I sat back and wondered, what am I thinking? If this sort of seasonal weather is going to continue it is my job to breed and select for vegetables that will cope with that situation.

Shortening the season will just mean less income (for everyone that grows vegetables and melons)so I need to get busy. If this is the future I need to select melons, pumpkins and all sorts of other plants that hate cold nights for plants that can be grown in them and flourish. From now on I am not going to complain about this but use it.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Garlic harvest, farm wildlife and visiting Sophie Thompson from Gardening Australia

This week has been so busy. On Thursday my sister and I went up to Mount Barker to visit Sophie Thompson (from Gardening Australia on the ABC) as she would have been too busy to chat if we came over at her open garden that was on this past weekend.
She, and her family are so lovely and generous with their time and knowledge. I so enjoyed that visit and hope to get over there again sometime next year. She will try to get back over for my open day but with her busy schedule it is unlikely.

With some warmer weather and some rain the weeds are sprouting up everywhere so I am busy weeding every day, whew. The down side is that the nights are still too cool to get the warm weather things germinating and growing properly. If the springs are going to continue doing this I will have to start my seed off in mid November rather than October.

The potatoes that had been suffering so badly are now covered with predatory insects and are starting to recover, well most of them. Some may be so badly gone that they may not recover or produce. I am leaving them to see what happens.


 I have been testing my Easy Grow garlic variety for its ability to withstand heavy weed pressure but the down side is that it is difficult to see and harvest the bulbs among the weeds. My answer to that is to mow down the bed and then dig it up.

While I was mowing I accidently mowed over this natural asset and skinned his tail. There really isn't much I could do so I had to let him go beneath the rhubarb as there are plenty of snails there. I hope his tail heals ok.

Blue Tongue lizards like these and their uglier cousin, Shinglebacks, are invaluable in gardens because they eat so many snails. I like to encourage them as I can and certainly never try to harm them. I have both kinds on the farm and in our house yard, as well as normal skinks which like to eat small snails and insects.









This is an example of the type of weedy bed I grew my garlic in this year, as well as some beds with thick wood chip mulch. I was so impressed with the growth and health (as well as the nearly weed free status) of the garlic grown with wood chips that I will only be growing them on chipped beds from now on.

I will be writing about my garlic observational, comparative trial in a few weeks when the bulbs have dried and I can measure weights and sizes.







 Here are a few of the Monaro Purple bulbs that I dug today.
Although it is my favourite variety it does not store particularly well, and, especially this year, is prone to secondary sprouting (grassy top).









The Story of Potato Seedling D-154, Week 8


This seedling is starting to take off now. I gave it some fertiliser this week before it rained.

Some of the other seedlings have been lightly affected by aphids but this one missed out.




Sunday, November 4, 2018

Roguing the rhubarb, and d154 update - not much else sorry

A few days of nice weather has had me out every day weeding and adding a few more drip lines ready for summer.
I had the disease tester for the potato industry out on Friday to take soil samples to test for PCN (Potato Cyst nematode), a bad potato pest. I doubt there will be any as this land has never had potatoes grown on it. I have to have it done in order to sell tubers. Next year when I can afford it I will get the full spectrum of tests done for all potato diseases.
She said that other potato growers are also having a terrible time with aphids this year, just like me. It is very unusual.




Last post I showed you the seedling 'Next Generation rhubarb that I have been growing. Yesterday I got into them and rogued out all the ones that weren't red right through the leaf stems so I only have 11 plants left.
When the plants are bigger I will go through them again and taste test them, leaving only the 5 or 6 best flavoured ones.

I really should have planted two rows to have more of a choice but I suppose since it is vegetatively propagated it doesn't matter if I end up with only a few plants to keep.



The Story of Potato Seedling D-154, Week 7


This seedling is finally starting to take off. I think that next week we will see quite a change in its size.
It hasn't fallen victim to the terrible aphid outbreak that is decimating all my tuber grown plants as well as some of the seedlings. Whew.

The stems are purplish but the leaves and leaf veins are green so I think the tubers will have purple skin but white or yellow flesh. Just a guess though, it might well prove me wrong, and who knows what shape tuber it will have.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Next generation rhubarb, and growing garlic

Tomorrow is going to be a pretty warm 34 C, even though the nights are still under 10 degrees C. so I will be irrigating the small seedlings early in the morning. With the cool nights my melons are germinating very slowly which is pretty frustrating.

I know I have mentioned it before but the reason farmers are always talking about the weather is because it controls everything we do - so it is such an important part of our lives. I suppose that it can be annoying to people we talk to, or those reading my blog, lol.


 I said that I was going to plant a few new varieties of rhubarb this year but I only ended up planting two new ones and I already have my favourite 'Red Rover'. I did plant seeds of another but none of them germinated.

This pic is of one of the new varieties called 'Next Generation'. As you can see it is bright pink right through which will make very pretty stewed rhubarb. It is also less sour than any others I have tasted and even has a hint of sweetness.
When the plants are big enough to harvest a few stems I will get my mother to test it as she loves rhubarb.




I have read some posts on Facebook where people are wondering what happens when you don't dig your garlic. I had a bed that was mowed at harvest time last year to be ready for digging but the harvest didn't get done because I thought it was one of the nearby fallow beds.
Anyway, I let them grow this year to give me a good lot of bulbs for regrowing, and I can sell all the garlic in the other beds.

As you can see, all the cloves in the unharvested bulb sprouted and produced bulbs themselves, but since they are crowded together they are small, and misshapen from being squeezed by the others.

This is about the only time when it is safe to replant small cloves. Generally you would replant the largest cloves to make sure the next crop is healthy but in this case, if you are sure they have no diseases then it is ok to break up these small bulbs and plant.

Normally, planting small cloves can lead to small bulbs in your next harvest due to what the potato industry calls 'running out', where replanting of small potato tubers leads to all the crop producing smaller tubers because the original tubers were often loaded with viruses (which is why they were smaller) and replanting smaller tubers led to a bigger percentage of virus infected plants. Virus infected plants usually produce smaller and fewer tubers.

Of course, if you don't dig your bulbs multiple years in a row the bulbs get smaller and smaller due to more crowding.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

cotton, poppies and more

I have really been enjoying the spring days, though the nights are a still a bit cool. Finally it looks like the weeds and grass are slowing growth so I won't have to mow the lawns so much and the weather is pleasant enough to get out and start work as soon as the sun rises.

There are frogs and lizards everywhere, probably surprising to many people as I use a lot of snail bait and glyphosate. If I leave half a bucket of water in my shadehouse I have to dip frogs out of it the next morning as it is too slippery for them to get out themselves, and the silverbeet is full of frogs so I have to be careful when cutting leaves for the kitchen.
Unfortunately I have noticed that I have killed quite a few pobblebonks while rotary hoeing (pobblebonks are frogs that live in the soil, for overseas readers), and that is just what I have seen. At least with digging with a spade or broadfork you don't kill so many but I have too many beds to be able to dig that way.

In the hothouses, even though I scatter snail bait around occasionally so snails don't eat the seedlings in trays, I seem to have half of Australias population of skinks, as well as a bluetongue that has been living in there for the past three years. The lizards love the warmth and snails.


 A few posts ago I wondered what the colour was of the second peony poppy that I was growing (forgot to label the patch). Turns out it is a beautiful very dark purple.

Maybe if I try hard I will be able to grow one new colour each year, lol.








Last year I grew some white cotton plants and since they did well I decided to grow some other colours this season.
I bought some seed for brown and green cotton and planted them in the polyhouse because the nights are still too cold for them to go outside. The seed I got was well out of date so the germination has been a bit hit and miss. These browns came up ok with about 50% germination but the greens were a total loss. I still have a couple dozen green seeds so I will plant them tomorrow, maybe I will get better germination on them now.



 This year has been wonderful for the coloured silverbeet that has gone to seed, it is huge and the plants are very healthy. I should get a lot of seed off the two rows I have in.

Every few years I plant them all in their seperate colours as after a while of planting them mixed like I have in the pic here you tend to get too many green plants in the mix.

I notice a few too many green plants this year so I will be separating them next time.

The Story of Potato Seedling D154, week 6

After a huge aphid attack on all my potato plants I eventually had to spray them. I tried leaving them for a week as I have quite a few aphid predators on the farm, but the young seedlings were just too fragile to cope.
The spray didn't do a lot of good but did seem to halt the aphids for long enough for the predators to get the upper hand. There is still a lot of aphids on them so I will have to keep an eye on the situation.

This one got set back a little but is growing. Not much more to say about it this week.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

How to cross / hand pollinate bearded iris

My bearded iris is flowering prolifically and I am busy crossing them to get seeds. This little tutorial may be good for other iris also but since I don't grow any other iris I really don't know.
Crossing them is easy and you don't have to know anything about genetics to have fun with it, any gardener can do it. This tutorial is basic and easy to understand, I hope.


How to cross bearded iris




Step 1, choose the parent flowers. For this exercise I will be using this flower as my female parent. It is one of the prettiest bearded iris that I have.
The flower should have been open for only one or two days at the most.







This is going to be my male parent. The mix of colours should be interesting when the babies start flowering.
The male parent should have been open two to three days. If you open the petals you should see that the anther will have floury pollen on it. If the anther is smooth and shiny it is not ready yet. See the pic showing the anther two pics down.







Step 2, Pull off all six petals from both flowers (three petals bending down and three facing up.











You will be left with the centre part of the flower which is made up of the female and male parts.

Here you see the female part (pistol which has a part called the stigma at the top which takes the pollen) which is the flat, petal-like upright structure, and the male part (stamen which has the anther at the top that carries the pollen) which is the thin part in the middle backed up against the female part.





Step 3, Take your fingers or tweezers and gently pick the stamen off the male flower. The flower has three parts, so has three pistols and stamens. If you break it you have another couple that you can use.








Step 4, take the stamen and rub the anther with the pollen on the tip of the stigma. That is, the edge of the upright petal like structure.

Do this to each of the three stigmas on the flower so the resulting seed pod fills out properly. Hopefully you will see a few grains of pollen stick to the stigmas when you are finished. Be gentle.







 Step 5, After a couple of days you should see that the base (ovary) of the flower is filling out. That means that your pollination was successful.

















Now you just wait while the seed pod grows. It will eventually turn brown and start to crack open when the seed is ripe. This takes many weeks so be patient.

When the pod cracks and you harvest the seeds plant them out while fresh into a pot filled with potting mix. They will germinate within a few weeks.

When the seedlings are around 12-15cm tall transplant them into individual pots until big enough to plant out into the garden.

It will take two to three years before they flower but it is exciting when they do as you won't know what colour flowers they will have until then.

When they flower you will need to have a hard heart and dig up any that are not particularly good or different. There will probably only be 10% or less that are good enough to keep. If you cross some every year then you will have new ones to choose every year making something to look forward to every spring.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Poppies, aphids and African violets


There is not a lot happening at the moment as the nights have gone too cool again so I have put off sowing more seed for at least the next week. I have a lot of empty beds ready so it won't be a big job when the temps rise again.
I am having trouble with aphids on everything at the moment which is strange as aphids don't usually show until later in the season. They are all over my potatoes as well as the brassica stems with seed pods on them.
There just isn't the ladybugs about yet so I have had to spray them. Hopefully when they build up again in a few weeks there will be a few ladybugs around and I will be able to leave them to it.


My little patch of peony poppies have started to flower. They look so bright among all the green and brown. I tried planting 4 different colours again this year but only one other one survived - it looks like it will be flowering in a week or so.
I don't know why they won't germinate here as they can be a bit weedy and hard to get rid of.

Anyway I can't remember what colour the other one is so it will be a nice surprise later.

Since there isn't a lot to take pics of at the moment so here is a pic of a few of my mothers African violets. They are so pretty.
She has 9 varieties.

I have taken some leaves to try and propagate some but that was when the nights were warm so I am not sure if they will take now. I might have to try again next month.


My first potato is flowering. It started a couple of days ago. This one is from a tuber. I planted the tubers on the first of Oct and this one grows and flowers very quickly.

The other one with flower buds on it did not flower as quickly as I expected but may be out tomorrow.









The story of potato seedling D154, week 5


This seedling is starting to get divided leaves now and I expect it to start growing fast now that it seems to be over the transplant shock.

As I have mentioned before, true seedlings take twice as long to harvest as tuber grown plants, so if it is good enough to trial next year I will be able to find out then the exact time from planting the tuber to harvest.



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Lots of tilling done, and flowers


Things are happening quickly at the moment, the start to spring planting has been magnificent with warm days and nights. Pity the next week has gone back to pretty cool nights again as I was so confident that I started planting some seed of cold hating vegetables like okra, eggplant and peanuts. I hope these cold nights don't last long.


The bearded iris are starting to flower now. I will have to remember to do some hand pollinating to collect seeds this year, I didn't gather any last year.

They are a lot of fun as you never know what colour flowers your seedlings will end up having.


Some of the seedlings from a couple of years ago will soon be flowering for the first time and that is always exciting.







Here is part of the seedling potato row. I have planted 1000 seedlings. They are planted close at 30cm spacing as there will be a lot of culling before they are mature. Some are in narrow beds and single rows, and some are in widers beds with double rows. I will see later if that makes a difference. I would love to have planted more but I really won't have the time to do more evaluating and looking after - and watering as this first year I will get no return on the water paid for.

I prefer to space them at 60cm so I can see just how they produce without competition but I just don't have the room.

I am pretty happy with the tubers I kept last year. I only planted them 3 weeks ago and two varieties are already flowering. What the diploids lose in size, they make up in fast production. I am hoping that these couple will be valuable for planting early so that they are harvested before needing irrigation. This will allow a farmer to plant two crops with only one crops worth of water.
I think potatoes have a good future for breeding for climate change and less water in the future.
I only have one bed left to finish the drip tube but with half an inch of rain in the last two days on already damp soil I am not in a hurry. Any rain we get from now on is valuable.


Most of the rotary hoeing/tilling has been done now and most of those beds planted. These are peanuts.
Apart from weeding and a few small jobs I am waiting for the garlic to be harvested in a few weeks then I can reuse those beds.










The story of potato seedling D154 (still week 4)

I planted our seedling out with the rest of its siblings so now all it has to do is grow. I buried it up to the top few leaves to allow some extra room for its stolons. In little seedlings this doesn't seem to make much of a difference but every little bit counts.

I doubt there will be much difference in size though when I take its weekly Sunday pic. After that it should take off with all the extra root room it has.








Sunday, October 14, 2018

My bones, my bones. It is hard getting back into work after winter.

With a beautiful and warm start to my planting season I am aching after working every day. Cultivating, weeding, planting, and putting up the shade for my oca. But at least I can see a lot of improvement for my efforts.
The weather, especially the night temps are even warm enough for me to plant the heat loving veggies that I usually plant in November - beans, eggplant, okra etc.

This is my shade structure coming together for my oca plantings this year. I am sick of crawling around under my bed covers when weeding them so I wanted a structure I can stand up under and use a hoe.
I am under no illusion that it will stand up to more than one year and I will have to replace the steel posts with wood as I can afford it. It is just an experiment at this stage. Luckily we haven't had our usual strong spring winds this year to test it.
I should get it finished tomorrow. I wanted to finish it today but I left the scissors for cutting the shadecloth at home so I sowed many beds of seed instead, and transplanted a couple of beds of potato seedlings.


 My potato seedlings are coming along nicely and some were big enough to put out in the ground. I transplanted two rows today and the rest will go in when they are big enough.
There does not seem to be many purple ones this year but at least I will still get a good variety from what I have ready to plant over the next couple of weeks.

I have put aside a whole row of beds for the potatoes this year. Last week I attended a local conference of seed potato industry people to get some info on the certified potato scheme as I have a market grower already interested in one of my varieties that appeared two years ago.

Over the next few months I will be blogging a lot about my potatoes as I am getting more interested in them now. Just wait till the reveal in late March or April, I will try to video some of it as well.











The story of potato seedling D154, Week 4



This seedling as well as the others in its tray has not grown quite as well as I would expect so I gave them all a dose of Seasol. I expect that I will be planting it out next week in the ground.

Of course, being a diploid, it is not growing as fast as the tetraploids but they will catch up later in the season. I am excited to see how it develops over the next few months.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Spring is springing, yay

Although the night temperatures are all over the place we are getting some really nice days so I have been busy sowing seeds in seed trays, and some of the pumpkins have been direct planted.



 My oca is just starting to show new shoots above the straw mulch so I had better get the shadecloth roof on this week.

I have some seed germinating in a tray so hopefully in a couple of years I will have a couple of new varieties to release to add to the ones from this year. All I need is a nice cooler summer to get them to flower so I can collect seed.





I didn't have much in the ground over the winter but the couple of brassicas I do have, as well as this coloured silverbeet are rushing to flower now.
We did not get as much rain as usual this winter so I could have put in more overwintering vegetables, but that is the risk we take. It could just as easily been very wet where I would have lost it all.
At least I will have a little seed to sell, making up for the horrific broad bean season I have had. At least I am not the only one, I noticed some really sick broad been crops in the paddocks when I drove over to Ballarat last month.


I put in a bed of speckled snow peas and they are powering away now. It is hard to find information on these but they are really tasty peas. The pods are only small but they have no strings and can be used as a snow pea, snap pea or shelling pea, but they are a little bitter when mature so probably not as good as a dry pea.
The seeds are tan with dark brown speckles. They are the only pea I grow that can cope with Red Legged Earth Mite to some extent. Other peas are destroyed as soon as they emerge.










The story of D154, week three


This potato seedling has not put on much growth in the last week since I pricked it out. This was expected as it takes 4-5 days to get over the transplant shock. I expect that it will start to grow quite fast from now on and you will see a big difference when I post again next Sunday.

It takes longer for a potato to grow and mature from a true seedling than from a tuber so it won't be ready to harvest until about April, whereas if I was growing it from a tuber I would be able to harvest the tubers in Jan/February.

You can really notice the dark leaves and stem on this seedling so the tubers will definitely have purple skin, and probably purple flesh as well.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

About to start spring planting. The potting mix I use.

First of October tomorrow and I will be starting seeds in the poly houses. I was going to wait a bit longer this year but the forecasts are for some dry and hot months ahead so I will put some seeds in trays and by the time they are ready to plant out I am hoping the nights will be warm enough. The days are getting nice and warm so it feels good to get out.

Tomorrow I will start rotary hoeing the beds to get them ready for the new seedlings.

 Potato seedling D154, week two

A couple of days ago this seedling has been pricked out into a small pot, just like its siblings. In a couple of weeks it will be big enough to get out into the farm beds.

I can already see that this is going to be a fun project - writing about this seedling from planting to harvest. I really hope it does well and sets lots of good size tubers.





Choosing potting mix



 Choosing a potting mix can be a contentious subject as everyone has their own opinions and favourites. I have two favourites, the one pictured here, and one made by a local company called Biogrow. These are both pine bark based mixes that conform to Australian standards for premium mix.
They look like good garden compost but have wetting agent and slow release fertiliser.

It is not the cheapest bagged mix, but I have found that cheap mixes are often pretty bad and you get poor results from them.

There are so many potting mixes around that it can be hard to choose one that suits you. I suggest that you go for those conforming to Australian Standards and then buy a few different ones to see how you go.
I personally don't like those with a rice hull base but maybe that one is the one for you. Grow some plants in each and you will soon see which you prefer.


Whatever mix you choose, it should be free draining and have fertiliser mixed in. One that comes up to standard and has fertiliser in it will have been tested for PH, pathogens, as well as fertility. I like them fairly course, but not so course that it won't hold any moisture.

I really don't recommend using a home made potting mix. It is hard to get it right. There is a good reason why professional plant sellers/nurseries don't make their own.

Your own compost should be used for adding to your garden beds to add organic matter, not for adding to pots. it is great stuff but not an all-purpose product.


I never use seed raising mixes, I use my potting mix for raising seedlings and have great success. The reason is that seed raising mixes I find are too fine and hold moisture for too long. They just don't drain as well as I like or have enough aeration at the roots.

Seedling mixes that hold moisture tend to encourage moulds and damping off, even if you add things like perlite to it.

Mine looks course in trays but even the tiniest seedlings come up in it well.