16 December, 2011

Just add artichokes picked the other day and not yet consumed, leftover roast chicken, some olive oil, salt and a bed of lettuce.

(The strawberries were dessert, just in case you were wondering. Although I have put strawberries in a salad with rocket, sundried tomatoes, buffalo mozarella, olive oil and balsalmic vineagar and it was damn tasty.)

Blueberry haul...

12 December, 2011

This is the blueberry harvest for 2011.

Not particularly filling, but they were tasty!

Season of berries...

07 December, 2011

I am in the midst of a berry growing bonanza. Not that I'm complaining of course.

Strawberries have been coming thick and fast, although some of them are a little bug eaten at times. I've had the netting over the main patch so the birds can't cause too many problems (I've learnt my lesson since the cherry fiasco!). However I have strawberry plants scattered around the front yard which I have left to the birds and they seem to be enjoying those as when the first sign of red emerges its quickly pecked away. Over the last few weeks I've been harvesting 3-5 punnets of strawberries each week, which is more than enough. I may even start to think about making jam...

The raspberries have been going great guns. I've had a few picks here and there since October but in the last few weeks they've really hit their stride. Last week I picked 1.6kg of raspberries!!! Some has been hitting the freezer but most of it is ending up on yoghurt and then swiftly eaten!


24 November, 2011

I hate gardening.

Well, not really. What I hate is birds. Birds helping themselves to my almost-but-not-quite-yet-time-to-put-the-bird-netting-up cherries.


I have been eagerly watching my cherries slowly blushing and turning red. After all the rain we have had of late I have been worried about the tree dropping the fruit, but it seemed as though the fruit had made it through and was just about getting near ready.

I was thinking to myself yesterday while meandering around the garden after work, picking the lone artichoke (all the others are not quite ready yet) and trying to figure out what the hell I was going to make for dinner with one artichoke when I though "Note to self; must net the cherry this weekend..."

But when I got home from work today, there was this...

Not a single cherry was left! No wonder the botanical name for cherries is Prunus avium. Bloody birds! If only they could have waited one more damn day. I was so looking forward to those cherries! The tree is a Stella cherry and the first one I bought, which had lived for two years in a pot and last year had produced its first 6 cherries. They were delicious! I only shared one of those first few cherries, and in hindsight thinking of how good they were I'm amazed at my generosity. Maybe this is cherry karma?? Share or the birds will take them all.

Next year I will be prepared. This year I bought an additional 6 cherry trees which brings the grand total of cherries to 8; 6 sweet cherries (Stella, Simone, Early Burlat, Napoleon, Regina and Merchant) and 2 sour cherries (Morello and Kentish). The sweet cherries, with the exception of Stella, are spread around the front and back yards and are being trained in the spanish bush method which basically means in the first year you cut the tree back to 30cm above the graft, and then each year after you cut back each branch to 30cms. This hopefully encourages the plant to develop a network of branches so by the end of a few years you have a cherry 'bush' about 2m high, rather than a tree. This also hopefully means easier picking, assuming of course you get any fruit at all. The sour cherries are both being espaliered in an informal fan type shape against brick walls of the house and garage. But next year come the first hint of any colour even approaching red on these trees will be netted immediately!

Thank god for the sour cherries; it's the only one I have left.

And I'm determined the birds arent getting this one!!!

Peas please...

14 November, 2011

I finally have peas. I planted peas late this year in spring, not getting around to doing it in Autumn (this was also pre-challenge, which explains my not getting my ass into gear!). I did manage to plant some broad beans and have thus been enjoying broad beans for many weeks now. But peas have been slow going.

In September I sowed indoors in pots Greenfeast and Golden Podded peas. At about the same time I sowed outdoors a purple podded variety that I grew last year and as I didn't pick them regularly enough some peas went beyond nice eating into starchy territory, so I left them on the plants until they dried and saved the seed. The indoor ones germinated well, and I hardened them off before planting them outside in October. The outdoors peas germinated a bit more slowly, but once they managed to climb onto the bottom of the pea support they have raced ahead.

Lately I've been picking the odd pea here and there for eating while meandering about the garden, which is one of the best ways to eat peas, straight from pod to mouth. But that said there is nothing like a full saucepan of peas. However to achive this quite a lot of pods are required. Unfortunately til now said number of pods have been wanting. Until now...

So now I can enjoy sweet little tender peas in abundance. Joy!

Artichokes on their way

11 November, 2011

This year I started growing Artichokes. These plants are amongst the first of the front yard edibles which will be intermingled with the ornamental plants, mostly because they look so gorgeous when they flower. Which is essentially what we eat - the flower before it starts to look pretty, just when its at its most tasty as the part which is usually removed (the 'choke' - that's not trying to tell us something is it???) is the hairy centre part of the Artichoke which if left on the plant becomes the beautiful purple flower.

I have grown two varieties - Imperial Star (cue Darth Vader music - my older brothers' Star Wars obsession must have made some sort of mark on me...) and a purple variety called (not suprisingly) Violetto.

These have all been raised from seeds and now have been planted out into the yard, where they have flourished.

And joy of joys, while I was cheking out the garden yesterday I noticed the first tiny Artichokes forming.

Can't be long now before they hit the pot!

Challenge update...

01 November, 2011

Since I (perhaps unwisely) challenged myself to growing at least 50% of my fruit and vegetable foodstuffs for a year I've been considering how to actually monitor this. Because of course if I don't monitor, how will I know if I've done it or not?

Hence, I've set up some rules by which the 50% challenge will be run;
1. Only fruit and veg eaten at home will be included.
2. % will be based on weight, volume or number of items bought vs grown.
3. All fruit and vegetable matter bought or grown will be documented in the Great Fruit and Veg (not quite) Self-sufficiency Challenge 2011/12 official notebook (yet to be purchased, but I want something pretty and won't settle for the current makeshift 50c notebook from woolies).

Althought I have not yet purchased said official notebook, I have started documenting, admittedly very roughly, the last month of home consumed fruit and veg.

I also think this will help in ongoing planning for veg growing, in that knowing when I started harvesting and how much will help me know what to plant, how much and when. Assuming of couse that in 12 months time I don't decide its all too hard and to pack it all in, of course...

So far I think I'm slightly ahead on the 50% front, however its pretty close. I'm hoping the next couple of months will be pretty productive in the garden and help me to get a head start for the autumn/winter which I'm sure will be my weakest link.

However, I'm hoping that I will be able to preserve/freeze enough produce to help me get through this, and have already started by freezing some of the broadbeans that have been really hitting their strides in the last couple of weeks.

Fingers crossed these little babies will be able to assist with getting me through!

Bugs, dammit!

19 October, 2011

My little baby seedlings are becoming adolescents and now have to go out into the big, bad world and see if they can make it. So I have started planting out some of the (hopefully) more frost tolerant seedlings. Cucubits (cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, rock- and watermelons), corn, basil and most of the tomatoes are still coddled in the cosy warm of the indoors. Dwarf beans and the earliest of the tomatoes have been kicked out into the cold. However I haven't been entirely heartless, after all I have a vested interest in ensuring these plants don't die (so I can eat them, which is not entirely philanthropic, but anyway). My comprimise is to cover the poor seedlings with old milk bottles, so they are not completely at the mercy of nature.

The idea is these provide a mini-greenhouse environment, particularly to protect the plants from any potential frosts. They are also supposedly helpful in protecting plants from bugs that like to eat tender new seedling leaves. However, some of these covers are failing in their duty, and the odd bean has been lost.

This poor bean has been eaten down to a stump! I blame the bugs.

The tomatoes seem to be holding up, but we shall see...

Popping corn...

09 October, 2011

Last year I grew corn specifically for popcorn. I was slightly sceptical about the process, but prepared to give it a go. So I had 6 corn plants that I left the developing cobbs on (painfully - it was so hard not to eat them!) the plants to fully mature. These were then picked and further dried and looked like this...  

Then I spent a lazy autumn afternoon rubbing the kernels off the husks. An hour or so later (which resulted in a oddly located blister on my thumb) I had a jar of popping corn. And that’s where it stayed until the other night when I was feeling a bit peckish.


I hadn’t made popcorn since I was a kid, but vaguely remembered my mum on the odd occasion putting a seemingly tiny amount of popping corn into a pan, waiting for the pings to subside and then feasting on hot buttered fresh popcorn. 
So I followed the tried and true method above (note to self: a quarter of a cup of popping corn will satisfy the most crazed of snacking cravings) and lo and behold, there was fresh popcorn. It still seems somewhat magical to put hard corn kernels in a pot and watch fluffy, buttery corn scented deliciousness emerge.

I since have made plain salted and buttered popcorn, smoked paprika chilli popcorn and my personal favourite (so far) cinnamon and clove popcorn. Yum!

Almost, almost strawberries...

04 October, 2011

The Fraises des Bois have their first baby strawberry! I’m so excited, I can hardly wait to try it. This is one of the many alpine strawberries which apparently are intensely flavoured tiny little strawberries from which the big (and so often tasteless) supermarket strawberries have been bred.
That said, the bigger berries can still be pretty tasty when home grown. Most of the strawberries (in the ground, in pots, and in the strawberry wall) are sending out flowers left, right and centre and some also have tiny fruits forming. Yay!

The berries under glass are more well developed, but not that far ahead. Though they may ripen up faster under the glass than relying on the inconsistent Melbourne sunshine.

Though this one is clearly way out in front! Though not for long...

Almost strawberries

25 September, 2011

The strawberries are almost here. Last years' Chandler strawberries have been growing steadily under glass and now have fruit as well as flowers. The runners from the Cambridge Rival's are settling in and starting to grow and a few of those have flowers too, but no fruit as yet. I've also got some Alinta and Hokawase in pots and will see how these go. The 3 year old Red Gauntlet's which I had planned to pull out but never got around to it also have flowers. I didn't think the fruit was that worthwhile last year but now they're flowering I think I'll give them another chance to prove themselves.

The alpine strawberries that were raised from seed in autum this year and cosseted inside through winter have been planted out in the strawberry wall. Blog on this strategy to follow when I see if the idea has paid off or not...

Seedlings everywhere...

10 September, 2011

I have started sowing the first seeds of the season. With my mountain of newspaper pots that I made this week, my organised groups of seeds has gone from this...

to this...

I have planted early sowings of bush beans, cucumber, eggplant, zucchini, squash, pumpkin, watermelon and rockmelon. Still to be sown in pots are artichokes, peppers, tomatoes and corn. Hopefully I will have time to sow them today! But when they are sown I don't think I will have any windowsill space left whatsoever. Ah, well, the cats will have to find somewhere else to sunbake until the plants are big enough to be potted on.

I am about to head out and sow direct some climbing beans, beetroot, carrot, lettuce, spring onion and radish. Please let the rain hold off for a little longer!...

Seeds, seeds, glorious seeds...

06 September, 2011

I FINALLY got my order of seeds today, and so to celebrate I have started laying out my seed collection to date and organizing things ready for the first main sowing of the season.

As you can't see from my gardening book (you will just have to take my word for it) I have a 8 bed/4 year rotating system for the main veg garden. The rest will be incorporated into the ornamental garden both front and backyard. But the main bed system is;
    - Alliums and Root veg: Onions, leeks, garlic, beetroot, carrot, parsnip
    - Corn, then Brassicas: Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale
    - Solanums and Curcubits: Tomato, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash
    - Beans and legumes: Climbing beans, french beans, broadbeans, peas

Then other miscelaneous annual veg/fruit go around the ornamental garden including melons (watermelons and rockmelons/cantaulopes), herbs, lettuces and whatever doesn't fit into the main veg patch and I can't bear to waste the seedlings/not grow it. So now I just have to make a mountain of newspaper pots ready for sowing seed this weekend.

Spring has sprung!

04 September, 2011

I have been away in Perth for the last week (work, not pleasure) and before I left everything in the garden still looked like it was winter. But when I got back yesterday there were signs of life everywhere!

The fig has new leaves and the beginnings of baby figs.

The Sundowner apple has been the first cab off the rank to start blooming.

I know this crocus isn't strictly edible (next year I am so getting crocus bulbs from which to harvest saffron!!!) but it was just so pretty I had to include it!

While I was in Perth I came across this fabulous cafe that has an amazing rooftop garden (not to mention pretty good coffee and food) called Greenhouse http://www.greenhouseperth.com/food/garden/ which made me feel a little more at home.

But now I'm back its back to the garden to sort out some real food. The asparagus has been going great guns (including the fattest spear I've ever seen, and its not even the variety I've got called Fat Bastard - genius name!), rocket continues to shine and today I picked the first of the baby golden beetroot and a sugarbeet, which is a new one for me, but definately something I will continue to grow.

This just reinforces that I've got to get my butt into gear and start the first sewings for some early veg. I've got a couple of tomato seedlings already started, which are just beginning to develop secondary leaves. But I've got to get some seeds organised, make some more newspaper pots and get growing!

Hungry gap harvest...

28 August, 2011

So since my commitment to growing most of my fruit and veg I've been much more aware of what is in the garden and how I can use it. Previously I had taken the best bits of the garden, and if there wasn't much around I'd be relying more on farmers market shopping. But now I'm much more concious of using what is in the garden. There has been a lot of rocket salad consumption, which is no hardship on my part (particularly in a rocket, pear and walnut salad... heaven!!) and finishing up the carrots before they go to seed, although I will let some go to seed as they attract beneficial insects into the garden. Also the first few aspargus spears are coming along which is so exciting as this is the first year I can harvest them.

Lunch today was (another) rocket salad with finely sliced choggia beetroot, goats cheese and watermelon. Delicious! The carrots were for snacking while I made the salad. They didn't last long.
While on the veg front I have been able to work with what's in the garden currently, on the fruit side of it its a waiting game. So I'm eagerly watching the fruit bushes and trees for signs of life. The strawberries under glass are flowering and hopefully setting fruit, and the loganberry is fruiting for the first year.

Meanwhile over the weekend I planted the last of the apple trees (now I have 22 - that's not too many, is it??) and the new cherries (sweet and sour), pear and plum tree. I've been compiling an inventory, which will be a blog in its own right.

All I can say is, bring on spring!


23 August, 2011

After my recent decision to commit myself to growing the majority of my own fruit and veg I clearly was feeling a bit under pressure and had to escape and headed up to Sydney (actually no, I had been planning this weekend away for a while, but the timing seemed amusing). And while I was up there I managed to check out the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House for some veg growing inspiration.

I first found out about the gardens at Vaucluse House by reading about them in one of my favourite gardening books - Kitchen Gardens of Australia. I highly recommend it for gardening inspiration (not to mention envy!).

So of course while I was up north I had to check it out, and it didn't disappoint! It was a great mix of vegetables and fruit with apple trees at the edges of the main beds, and a whole bed of alpine strawberries.

I did laugh privately at the dad who was taking his young child for a wander through the garden while I was there and pointing out the spinach (it was silverbeet) and the turnips (it was khol rabi)...

It did also make me want to try and grow pineapple, though I'm not sure how they would go down in Melbourne. I can but try...

So now that I'm all inspired I just need to get growing!


19 August, 2011

I'm trying to decide if I ought to challenge myself to grow at least 50% of my fruit and vegetables for a year. At the moment I mostly just grow bits and pieces; a cabbage or two here, some tomatoes there. I still rely heavily on farmers markets and to a much lesser extent supermarkets (mostly because I know what good fruit and veg should taste like and I refuse to spend my hard earned cash on crap) to supply my gardening shortfalls.

But of late I've been thinking whether it mightn't be a good idea to grow a whole lot more. With a lot more of the garden finally in a useable state, rather than the weeds, grass, corrugated iron and old tiles that the garden consisted of when I moved in, I've got a fair bit of possible growing space.

So in an effort to try and convince myself that it's possible, I made lunch from the garden. Witness exhibit A: ingredients for garden veg tart.

The tuscan kale and leeks were thinly sliced, the carrots and beetroot were grated and this was all mixed with some margoram and sage and a couple of beaten eggs (from my Oma's chickens) and a dash of cream, salt and pepper. Shortcrust pastry (made in my brand spanking new magimix - I think I have a new favourite appliance) with the base crimped up at the sides as I don't have an appropriately sized tart dish seemed to keep it all in place. Served with a cos lettuce, rocket and avocado salad with lemon juice and the good olive oil (the brand is Nicolas which I used to get at Kingston farmers market but have since been able to get at Leo's), it was delicious.

But that doesn't mean I'll be able to grow the majority of my food. I think the greatest challenge will be in the planning. Like with this year when I'm only just being able to harvest brussel sprouts, and most of the cabbages are still juvenile. What would I have eaten all winter? As much as I love carrots and leeks I don't want to eat them everyday, and what I grew from last year would have run out ages ago.

But that said I think I still want to give it a go. And if worst comes to worst and I fail miserably, I'll still be eating well with whatever I manage to grow.

So it looks like I've talked myself into it. Challenge accepted; for the next 12 months I'll be aiming to grow at least half of my fruit and veg myself. How I'm going to monitor this is yet to be determined (and if that sounds like an out it's not).

So now all I need is to finally get the majority of my seeds which I ordered two weeks ago and am still waiting to have delivered. Then the challenge will begin...

In the beginning...

15 August, 2011

Hi there. Welcome to my blog.
This blog will be my ongoing journey growing fruit and veg in my own backyard in suburban Melbourne. I've been pottering a bit in growing my own fruit and veg over the past few years, and as much as I love growing my own fruit and veg, I think I love reading about it just as much. But despite doing a few (pretty quick and entirely un-thorough) searches I couldn't find any blogs from home fruit and veg growers around Melbourne. And while I appreciate reading about what people are growing in the US, Canada, UK and even other areas around Aus, I really wanted to read about what others closer to home were growing. But, no luck. So I thought I would write my own, and here I am.
I suppose a bit of background info might be appropriate. So here goes... I grew up with my parents and grandparents growing a few bits and pieces of edible plants in their backyards. I vividly remember my grandmother pulling carrots out of the ground when I was probably around 7 or 8 years old, and being amazed that under all that frothy green was bright orange carrots. Also the bumpy cucumbers she used to grow which we always ate for lunch quartered lengthwise with salad dressing. I remember peaches from tree we used to climb as big as my hands; unfortunately that tree had to get pulled out to move the washing line as it was shaded by the next door neighbours trees – a week later they chopped the trees down. So cruel! My parents still grow tomatoes and onions and lettuce and rocket and a whole bunch of other stuff, though now it’s more of a (mostly friendly) competition – I still am adamant that my apple trees will fruit before Dad’s will!
So I suppose this is part nostalgia, and part just not being able to buy really good fruit and veg (particularly fruit). So here goes...
Given we're heading out of winter and almost into spring and the start of the (main) growing season it seems apt to start now. At the moment I've got the end of the winter veg coming through, with leeks, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and the last of the years carrots being the main contenders. Looking forward the pea seedlings are just coming up, broad beans beginning to flower (though the crimson flowering ones have been going at it since June - just no pods as yet as its too cold), asparagus which is just starting to show itself (guarded jealously for two years, and now finally I can eat it!), and I'm eagerly waiting for my order of this years seeds to arrive (should be any day now). And then I'll really be able to get a start on this years crops. I can't wait!