Good crop, bad crop...

29 November, 2012

Is this not one of the best berry harvests to be seen?

And is this not one of the worst garlic harvests to be seen?

Ah well. Sometimes you win 'em, sometime you lose 'em.

They're just babies...

27 November, 2012

I am joining Louise from Garden Glut on her zucchini campaign to restore the reputation of this much maligned vegetable.

While her travelling zucchini has been settling in and is already producing flowers, my zukes continue to be immature.

The nursery-bought-and-twice-dug-up-by-bastard-animals zucchini is seeming to find its feet.

However, it isn't that much ahead of the direct sown zucchini.

There are three in there. Now I need to pick which is the strongest and pull out the rest. It will be a tough call. I'm giving them until the weekend for one to assert its dominance.

It's a good thing I can remember that these ones are the variety Costata, as the name tag is no use at all. I wrote the variety on the tag in permanent marker, but it has not lived up to the expectation of permanence. I can barely read it.

Hopefully these will fruit soon and then I can join posts of what to do with the produce. Until then, I'm hoping someone else has some...

Three sisters...

24 November, 2012

For the first time I'm trialling a three sisters type arrangement for my corn crop.

Given I've no experience with sisters (being a girl with two brothers) I'm a little apprehensive. But as these three are unlikely to steal my clothes and generally ruin my life (a view perhaps falsely influenced by my memories of friends complaining about their sisters...) I'm prepared to give it a go.

Whimsy aside, the three sisters growing arrangement for corn, beans and cucumbers is a method I've read about a few times and which has always intrigued me. It is a way of intergrowing crops, thus getting more yeild for the space used. Have you ever used this system? If so I'd love to hear how it went.

In theory, the corn provides something for the beans to grow up, the beans provide additional nutrients for the notoriously hungry corn by fixing nitrogen as legumes do, while the cucumbers sprawl under the corn/beans and are essentially a living mulch. Thus, each plant helps the others grow and all live harmoniously together. I wish humans were as smart.

My corn crop was looking in need of a renovation if this system was going to work. I had saved some seed from last year when the cobs went beyond good picking into starchy territory, so they were really only good for seed. I had a couple of small handfuls of seed, and a few weeks back just chucked it randomly into an area that had nothing planted. I wasn't sure if it would germinate, so I figured if it didn't I could easily plant something else. I put my standard scatterings of random twigs and prunings to protect from animals digging up the seeds, and intermittently watered.

I was rewarded with a random lot of seedlings, which were very much in need of spreading out.

So I removed the twigs and spaced out the corn seedlings. I then planted a climbing bean seedling (Climbing Princess, many thanks to Tracy for the seeds) next to the corn seedling.

Hopefully this will be the start of a wonderful relationship.

When all the corn seedlings were cohabitating with bean seedlings, I then deviated slightly from the plan.

Given I already have my cucumber bed planned out and planted, and I have grown sprawling cucumbers before and always struggled to find the fruit, I have decided to go with pumpkins as my living mulch instead.

So then I planted seeds of three varieties of pumpkin (Australian Butter, Baby Blue and Buttercup) under plastic bottle protection.

 Lets see how these three play together...

Morning meander...

18 November, 2012

Yay for lazy Sunday mornings and gentle starts to the day. Walking around the garden and checking up on the plants with a cup of coffee in one hand is the perfect way for me to slowly approach the day.

Firstly into the backyard where edibles and ornamentals share.

The shallots and potato onions (if only I could remember which is which; I'll have to wait until they grow and I can tell the difference...) are doing well. Note to self; must think of something to plant between them where I pulled up the elephant garlic. The step over apples are looking a bit sad and perhaps dry with their leaves folding up, but I've given them a good water a few days ago and they don't seem to be pepping up. Must keep an eye on them and investigate further if they don't look any better.

The gifted extra store bought tomatoes (handed over the fence by my next door neighbour Mick when he realised he bought too many) are growing well - better than my home sown seedlings in fact! Ah well. I won't be complaining when I get some early fruit.

The melons are going well, protected by their drink bottle enclosure. I've planted these next to rocks so that hopefully the rocks hold extra heat and help the fruit (please let there be fruit) ripen quickly. We shall see.

Moving around into the front yard (also edibles and ornamentals togeather), more melons and an early sown eggplants are doing well in their plastic mini-greenhouses.

The cucumbers are coming along. I'm following 500m2's cucumber growing method, where the cucumbers grow along the supports, but the cucumbers hang down allowing for easy pickings. I'll be building another structure when the sown seeds are bigger. The good sized ones are the bought ones which I couldn't resist, given my early sowings all died. (Please ignore the going to seed lettuce and cardboard round things that I used to build up my potato plants last year and never got around to putting away.)

On closer inspection the seeds I sowed last week (or was it the week before...) are up. I cover all my outdoor sown seeds with a tangle of tree prunings so that the seeds can't be dug up by any creature that loves to get its paws into lovely fresh soil.

Yes, those are snail pellets. I am a bad organic gardener. Well, I try to be organic, until the snails eat all my cucumber seedlings. Now they must die. I will be checking out organic snail pellets, and am planning trialling a copper tape system, but for the here and now I need to protect my baby cucumbers.

The beetroot forest continues to take over the garden. When the plants die back and start to dry out I'll be pulling them all out and drying the seeds.

The now well protected raspberries are coming along.

This poor zucchini seems to be holding in there. It was another one that I couldn't resist buying, as it looked so healthy at the nursery. But then it got planted and was dug up by some marauding animal not once, but twice. I've replanted it each time and now have added a protective layer of twigs, but it's looking a bit sad, but like it will just hold in there.

The outdoor sown seeds of zucchini are up, and when they're a bit more grown I'll pull out the weaker seedlings and just let one grow.

The artichokes continue to prosper.

I am picking them and gathering a hoard in the fridge so that I can preserve some. But I've been researching about preserving in oil and botulism risk on the interwebs, so may need to rethink my plan.

The Huonville Crab apple tree is by far and away the most prolific apple this year. I think I counted 17 apples on it.

The little purple fruits look amazing!

The purple podded peas are drying up, and I'll be saving the seed for next year.

My corn seedlings are up, if a bit poorly spread out. I just threw down the handful or so of saved seed from last year and they have come up erratically. I'll need to get in there and spread them out a bit better.

The plan it to trial a three sisters type arrangement (where you grow corn, beans and cucumbers togeather, the beans climbing up the cucumber and providing additional nitrogen to the soil, which helps the corn and cucumbers grow well, and the cucumber shades the soil and provides almost a living mulch to stop the soil drying out. Genius!)

The white mulberry, which fruited for the first time this year, is looking a bit odd.

Must get onto Diggers about that. This is the second time they've sold me mis-labelled plants. Not happy Jan!

But on to happier things. Just for the Gumboot Greener, here is my strawb patch. As you can see it's somewhat shaded by a large camellia.

There are plenty ripening and lots more to come.

In and amongst the strawbs under the nets are two of the three deciduous blueberries.

I actually hadn't planned the netting this way, but it will protect both crops as the blueberries ripen.

The cherry is doing well.

The protection appears to be holding up well. Shouldn't be too long now!

The belgian fence espaliered pears are doing well, but putting on too much extra growth. The extra branches will be cut back and the trees trained this weekend.

Another good reason to do this is the pear and cherry slug has started its offensive on the trees. Cutting the trees back will allow for an easier time with the pyrethrum spray.

But in the meantime...

I'll just squash the buggers.

Now its time to go inside and get another cup of coffee. The raised veg patch area will have to wait.

I feel a rant coming on...

14 November, 2012


I sure as hell don't! Yes, I suppose they CAN be eaten, but SHOULD they? No. They should be eaten when soft and fragrant and unctuously dripping with peachy goodness.

Not "firm and crunchy" tasteless tennis balls masquerading as fruit.

Secondly, HOW IS $9.98kg ON SPECIAL?????

That's not on special. Almost $10 a kilo? For "firm and crunchy?" What a rip off.

This is the sort of crap that gets fobbed off onto the unsuspecting public who don't know any better, and just fosters the sort poor understanding of food that stops people from eating fruit and veg. I mean, really, if you just paid $10 a kilo for some tasteless crap that is supposedly a delicacy, why wouldn't you prefer to buy a packet of chips/chocolate/biscuits for a treat? You would get a known product that on the surface appears cheaper (e.g. $2.00 for a packet of biscuits vs $10 for peaches) and that can sit in the pantry for ages until you want to eat it. No wonder you come across kids nowadays that say they don't like strawberries. Or maybe just don't like them "firm and crunchy."

I'm disgusted.

Storing strawberries...

13 November, 2012

I've been dealing with a large crop of strawberries so far this year.

I know, poor me.

So far this season I've harvested about 4.4kg of strawberries, though not all have been consumed by me - although I've done my fair share! I've been giving the excess away as strawbs, for all their good points, do not store particularly well. I find a day or two max post picking is as long as they'll last before the mould gets them. And as fruit is definitely my weakest link in the fruit and veg growing challenge, I've been thinking of how I can store at least some of the strawbs.

I considered freezing them, but unlike raspberries and blueberries, strawbs don't seem to freeze well. Or, to be more specific, they don't defrost well as they go all soggy. Bottling them didn't really take my fancy either for much the same reasons. Jam sounds nice, but my family and I don't eat much jam. But I do love my dried fruit. So I thought I'd get the dehydrator out and give it a try.

This whole collander of strawbs got sliced into around half centimetre slices and laid out on the dehydrator trays.

 As you can see my chopping was not exactly consistent, but too bad.

Into the dehydrator they went on a medium temp (for my dehydrator that is 50-55 degrees C) for about 12 hours.

Here they are.

These dried strawbs were on the crispy side, which I was happy with as they're more likely to store well than if I left them a bit softer.

The whole collander was reduced to one tiny jar.

And me being me, I had to try them straight away. They taste good, but the crispyness isn't the best.

But I thought, I could mix them with anything moist for that strawberry flavour. Custard, ice-cream, yoghurt, muesli...

So first up I tried yoghurt. I put a tablespoon of dried strawberry pieces into a small bowl of yoghurt.

Then I mixed it in and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

The next morning I gave it a good mix.

It went the most amazingly pink colour. The picture doesn't do it justice. And the taste... OMG IT WAS AMAZING!!!!!!

Believe me that was an understatement. It tasted divine. It tasted of happiness. It tasted like anything strawberry flavoured should taste, but never does.

Seriously. Do it.

Stone fruit security...

11 November, 2012

Today I spent some delightful time in the sun protecting my stone fruit crop.

I have had my nectarine (Ziablagrow Queen Giant), one cherry (Stella) and one peach (Anzac) set fruit. As they are all quite young (only in the ground for 1-2 years each of them) none of them have set a lot of fruit, but it is worth protecting. And as netting my raspberries has used up all of my fruit tree nets, I have resorted to individual fruit bags.

Firstly you need to find a baby fruit-let (in this case a nectarine).

Now I know you can purchase individual fruit bags, and one day I may even give these a go myself, but I use a home-made fruit protection bag. I keep all the net bags from bags of oranges and onions etc (I blame the hoarding instinct on my mother - it must be genetic) and cover the fruit with these and tie them onto the above branch.

I reinforce these with cut segments of plastic bottles to ensure no enterprising bird or possum can nibble at the fruit through the net.

This system works well for clusters of cherries, as many cherries can be fit into one net bag.

 Alas, I ran out of plastic bottle bits when I got to the peach, so those bags alone will have to do.

I'm very excited about the peach, as this is only its second year and it has 11 fruit-lets on it. Joy! Hopefully they will all come to fruition (geddit?) unharmed.

Do you bother to protect your crops, and if so, how?

Limoncello taste test...

10 November, 2012

And the results are in.

But quickly, a little backstory. A while back my colleague Sonia came into a glut of lemons, and when she brought them in to work, offloaded as many as she could and still had mountains of them, I decided to lend a helping hand and take some to make limoncello with. Due to the conflicting information in limoncello recipes I had found on the interwebs, I also decided at this time to make three lots and infuse the lemons for different periods and see which one tasted best.

Therefore, for the last few months there have been three bottles of lemon peel slowly maturing in vodka in my kitchen; one for one month, one for two months and one for three months. As each bottle hit its end of infusion date, I drained the now lemon infused vodka using a sieve and tossed the now pale lemon peels into the compost (I hope that won't cause any problems...). Then a sugar syrup of one part water to two parts sugar was made and cooled, and then mixed the lemon vodka liquid to taste. I found the sugar syrup from about two cups sugar and one cup water gave enough syrup to achieve a nice but not overpowering sweetness to the 750ml lemon vodka in each bottle.

The last batches infusion period finished in early November. I now had my three ready-to-drink bottles of limoncello!

I then gathered my independent research participants (i.e. my family) and conducted a blind tasting.

And the results were.... pretty much tied. Of the five tasters, three preferred the two-month infused batch, and two preferred the one-month infused. But that said everyone agreed there wasn't much to pick between them. We all agreed the three-month infused batch was a little more bitter tasting.

So there you have it. From now on I will only bother infusing the lemon peels for one to two months. Thus making limoncello development a quicker turn around. A good result all round, I think.

Beating the birds...

08 November, 2012

I love raspberries. Unfortunately, so do the local birds.

The raspberries that I have been eagerly watching flower and form fruit have been slowly ripening over the last week.

But none of them seem to be turning the deep, raspberry red that heralds a truly delicious raspberry.

And this appears to be why.

Bloody birds!

This one hiding between the wire supports and the fence behind has had a reprieve.

But its just as hard for me to get to the berry as for the birds. So to protect the crop I've deployed the troops.


But first I needed to set up the framework.

I use these fabulous joiners to make building the structure easier.

Then I just had to wrestle with the netting, but after much tugging and clipping it was done.

Now the berries are all safe and sound.

Until I get my hands on them. Delicious.