Monday, May 13, 2019

Harvesting the second potato crop

There hasn't been much happening lately, as you will have guessed due to my lack of posting. After being wiped out by the cockies there really wasn't anything to talk about.

I am expecting the frosts to start any time now so I have started harvesting the first of the second crop of potatoes for the year. Many of these varieties only have short dormancy period so they will only be suitable for home growers, but there is a great range from this years seedlings.

This is Toffee Apple. It looks amazing and I was thinking of releasing it next year but it has one problem - the flesh darkens after cooking so it doesn't look very appetising unless eaten just after cooking.
We will see, maybe it cooks up better after a bit of storage when the sugars have settled.

This is number 13, a seedling from last year. I am very impressed with this one as it produces well and tastes great, as well as having reasonable sized tubers and pretty pink flesh.
I will have to come up with a name for it though.

This one is a diploid so does not produce that well, but the flavour is fabulous. It has lovely yellow flesh and the colour doesn't fade with cooking. It makes the best mash if you like creamy rather than fluffy mash (like I do).

The tubers that are near the soil surface are always tinged with pink even when they are no exposed to light. Probably a keeper.

I am waiting a bit longer till frost kills the tops of the others in the ground to let the tubers grow as big as possible.

Here is a potato posy I picked to show some of the great potato flower colours I have at the moment.

I am so hoping that I can make a living in the future with my potato breeding as they are not as vulnerable to pests as other veggies.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Vegetable gardening myths debunked

Sorry I haven't posted for a while, there really isn't much happening at the moment apart from the second planting of my potatoes, some of which are starting to flower.

At the risk of causing some debate: One of the things that annoys me greatly is the amount of food growing myths that people share. I realise that no-one is deliberately trying to spread misinformation but I think it can damage the confidence and understanding of new and inexperienced vegetable growers. Here is a short list of some of the memes and posts that do the rounds regularly.
1, Capsicum fruits come in male and female forms. I don't understand how this started at all, and is totally untrue. 2, The meme and video showing how to tell when a watermelon is ripe. Some of tips shown are correct in many cases but not always - not all varieties show a yellow spot where they sit on the ground, and a watermelon can be perfectly ripe when the stem is still green - in fact if you wait till the stem is dry then many home growing varieties will be over-ripe. Knocking to hear a hollow sound works often, especially on bigger fruited varieties but is not a good indicator on smaller fruits.
3, Healthy plants don't attract pests or diseases. This myth has some basis in fact but not enough to believe all of it. Insects are like us and prefer healthy and juicy plants which are full of nutrients. healthy growing plants attract lots of pests but as long as the plant is healthy it will often be able to outgrow insect problems which keeps damage to a minimum. Sick and insect attacked plants often give off chemicals that some kinds of insect pests are attracted to and can't fight off these attackers as well.
4, Compost tea suppresses disease. It doesn't, but it does help build a healthy biome in the soil. These extra micro-organisms excrete more nutrients that the plants use and allows plants to grow better, therefore being able to cope with diseases better (as above). Once a plant is diseased then compost tea doesn't do a lot.
5, Biodynamic is best. I know I will make some enemies here but no scientific research has shown that it makes much difference at all. One simple study showed that biodynamic farming improved soil - but that farm also had much lower yield than the farm next to it that was farmed with permaculture principals. There is no such thing as 'Vital forces' and moon planting just does not work. Biodynamic gardening emphasises good soil management but all good gardeners and farmers do the same with the same results.
6, Pest attracting plants keep the bad bugs away from your vegetables. Pest attracting plants do work, in that they attract bad bugs. Those bad bugs just don't only feed on those plants but tend to freely spread to your wanted plants too. It is a much better strategy to plant a lot of beneficial insect attracting plants. These beneficials eat a surprising amount of the bad bugs.
7, Organic pesticides are less toxic that synthetic ones. most organic pesticides/herbicides are just as toxic (and often higher in the carcenogenic register) as synthetic ones, and stay in the environment as long (many of them will admit it on the label as they are legally required to do). This includes copper, pyrethrum, vinegar etc. A pesticide is something that kills pests/plants thus, the name. There are many times when the benefits of using a pesticide outweighs the risk but take precautions and you should be perfectly fine.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Last day of the month - time flies as you get older.

There isn't much happening on the farm now. I have a few more beds of broad beans to go in but that is about all. We got a little rain over the past couple of days so that should bring the clover and weeds up so I will put off planting the beans a week or two so I can clean the bed of seedling weeds before planting. It will make weeding easier later.

A local lady who is opening a gift store in town soon has asked me to make up some terrariums and terrarium kits for her shop so that has been an interesting distraction over the past couple of days. I popped over to the Mount and bought some bottles and plants - I already have everything else I need here.
I am wondering if there is a market for terrarium kits as an add on to my online store. Hmmm.

I also saw that Bunnings had some carnivorous plants so I splurged out on them too. Some are starting to go dormant but that is to be expected at this time. They will perk up in spring.

These are a few of the dozen pitcher plants I bought as well as a couple of terrariums that I have been playing with.
I am not sure if I will be able to keep the Nepenthes alive over the winter but I will find out I suppose.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

More cockatoo damage but not much more happening

After having a stall at the Port Fairy market yesterday I was too tired to go out to the farm when I got back in the afternoon. I did pretty well and I think I will continue to go there once a month. I also have the big Easter market there next month too - so two markets next month.
It is a pleasant little market and everyone is very nice.

This morning when I got out to the farm I saw that the cockies have attacked most of the ripening eggplants and left chewed fruits everywhere. They also tore into my cotton plants which I was surprised at. They picked off and chewed every pod as well as nipping all the plants off. I might have to stop growing most veg altogether if this happens again next year. At least my summer water bill was less than I expected so I haven't lost too much money.

I put some spare netting over as many plants as possible just so I will be able to save some seed, even enough to replant next year.
At least they aren't doing too much damage to the sprouting potatoes, just a few nipped off here and there. Looks like potatoes are the go.

Other than that there hasn't been anything happening. Most of the garlic is in now and I still have to plant the broad beans. I have been waiting for the temps to fall before planting the beans and I think that now the hot weather is finally over. I will get them in this coming week.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Autumn jobs

With practically everything harvested from the summer crops and still some hot weather to go there is not much for me to do at the moment. I really should have planted any brassicas by now but it is still hot and so dry that I am waiting for the weather to break first. Hopefully that will be next week.

 I have started cleaning and mowing the harvested beds ready for the brassicas, garlic and broad beans. Usually I don't plant many brassicas because the winter is too wet for them but I will give some a go this year because I have some spare seed that I can afford to lose.

I have decided to let go the town blocks that I was using as I am too busy on the farm to look after them properly. It will cut down on some of the varieties I will be able to grow but I can cope with that, especially as I am moving into more plants that I don't have to worry about crossing.

I have kept the block at the back of our house though as I still need a quarantine block in case I get new seeds or bulbs from iffy sources.

All the potatoes are harvested now and some with low dormancy have been replanted for their second, or in one case third, crop for the season.

I made a video of harvesting the last of the mini TPS (True Potato Seed) tubers. it is not very good but I now have a tripod and am going to learn how to edit properly. Future videos should be better quality with practice.

If you want to watch it:

Sunday, March 10, 2019

African violets, harvesting peanuts, and more

Over the past few days I have been busy saving seeds from the tomatoes I have left, harvesting my peanuts, and doing all sorts of small jobs before the cooler weather starts bringing out the weeds and I get busy with them.
I have started planting my winter veg - garlic, broad beans and brassicas (well I planted some brassicas a couple of weeks ago but birds pulled them up so I have them netted now). I will probably put in some lettuces too, maybe celtuce as I love it.

A couple of months ago I decided to try my hand at propagating leaves from my mothers African violets.
The leaves are now making babies, how exciting!! The down side is that I haven't thought beyond this point to where I am going to put them when they are potted up. We only have one place in the house that is suited to growing them and it is already full of violets.

At this time of year I could place them at some of the other windows but when it gets cold that may not work. First world problems, lol

I got into my peanuts as they were starting to yellow and pulled them all up. Last year I pulled them a bit late and some of the seeds were starting to reshoot but they are fine this year.
Because of the cold, long spring the plants didn't grow properly and the plants have only a dozen or so pods each. I suppose I can't ask more of such small plants. I must plant them later next year to stop this happening again.

My worry right now is that the cockatoos might see them and decide that they are a good feed, but I have to lay them out to dry before taking the pods off so I have to risk that. I am only going to leave them lay for a couple of days because of this threat but that should still be fine as long as i dry the pods well so they don't rot in storage.

A few years ago I grew some pomegranates from a supermarket fruit.

They flowered for the first time last year but didn't set any fruit. I didn't expect them to as they were still small plants.

I am happy that both the trees I kept have fruited this year. They are still not large so they only have 6 or so fruits each but I am happy :)

Now I just have to wait to see if the parrots find them attractive. At least these trees are still small enough to net.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Great weather, really busy with potatoes and update on D-154

I am loving this cooler weather and have been busy pulling the late tuberising TPS (true potato seed) seedlings even though some have not yet made tubers and some have only mini tubers. I pulled them because I am not that keen on having a lot of short daylength plants for a couple of reasons

1, It takes months of growing and a lot of expensive water to produce one harvest, whereas with neutral day plants that don't have a long dormancy I can get two harvests in the same time.
2, With such a long growing period over the hottest part of summer there is more risk of losing the whole crop to heat wave which would waste all the water spent on them.

The good thing about short day tuberisers is that they usually have a long dormancy and are easier to get over the winter in good condition.

Anyway, at the end of this post I will show a few of the tubers from these later plants.

 The story of potato seedling D-154

Finally I have harvested this seedling that we have been following since planting in October.

It produced these long, thin, very dark, almost black coloured tubers. I took a couple home to cook and was surprised to see that the flesh turned blue when boiled.
 The tubers had already started to resprout which would normally cause me to discard it but the combination of cooking colour and the fact that I want to show the entire cycle of growing means that I have replanted them to try and get a full sized crop before frost kills the plants off. This means that there are more episodes of this story to go.
I always replant late tuberisers for a second season before evaluating them as the first season they only produce mini tubers.

Another potato I have been growing for a couple of years is the diploid that I have named Sassy lass. This variety has no dormancy and I would normally have rejected it except that my mother really likes the flavour of it and because since it has no dormancy and grows so fast I have continually grow and harvest it all season.
When the frosts come and it goes dormant I just leave the tubers in pots and before they restart sprouting in spring I plant about a third and leave the rest in a fridge.
After the first lot start sprouting I plant the next third and a couple of weeks after that I plant the rest. This means there is always some to harvest.

They can be harvested only 8 weeks or so after planting. Even small plants produce well.

This year they are not producing as well as last year but I think it is because I have planted them in the poorest soil I have this season.

Here are some pics of a few of the diploid and tetraploid mini tubers I harvested yesterday.

I got a great mix of colours and I particularly like the bi-colours. I cot one particularly good pink and gold bi-colour with neon yellow flesh that has a sticky, filling texture and great flavour. I hope it makes it through the winter and produces well next season.

I have replanted all of these mini tubers. Some with low dormancy will sprout soon and hopfully produce a harvest before frost, and many will stay dormant in the soil till spring.

I have found that it is easier to keep mini tubers in the soil than try to overwinter them inside. In Australia our soil doesn't freeze but my only worry is waterlogged soil rotting them. I have planted them in the driest spot so hopefully they will be ok.