Harvest Monday...

29 April, 2013

It's been a while since I last joined Daphne and co. as they rightfully show off their harvests from around the globe.

Here is what's been good in my garden this week:

Some of the summer crops are slow, but still coming along, including eggplant (variety Prosperosa), baby capsicums (Mini Yellow Bell), zucchini (Costata), beans (mix of Purple King and various green ones from saved seed I no longer remember the variety of), beetroot (ditto forgotten/mixed variety), strawberries and melons (large Lambkin's Hybrid, and small Tigger.)

The artichoke is a bit of an anomaly, as only one plant has been producing, but I'm not complaining.

The winter crops are coming along, but only crop-worthy so far are the kales (Tuscan and Green) and the self-sown (aka 'volunteer') peas (Dutch Purple Podded.) Also fruiting are autumn flowering raspberries (these are Heritage), though these are tiny, tiny fruits. These ones are grown along the house wall and are just under the eaves, so I think the lack of water is limiting fruit size, as others  more exposed are producing larger fruit. However those got eaten as I was wondering around the yard and didn't make it into the photo.

Make sure you check out what others are harvesting back at Daphne's.

Saving seeds...

28 April, 2013

Sometimes I save seeds intentionally, and sometimes I end up saving seeds because I am lazy and don't pick things then they get past their eating prime and I end up telling myself it was good that I didn't harvest them so that I can use them for seed.

This is one of those times of the latter.

When I grew my three sisters arrangement this season the climbing beans were definitely the best growers. These were a bean called 'Climbing Princess' which was given to me by Tracey. The grew really well. A little too well in fact, in that they grew over and around the corn plants and then grew into each other and it was a little difficult to find the beans at times. So when I was pulling them out I found lots of dried bean pods.

This is only a small sample. 

Inside the pods were lots of very nicely formed beans.

So I collected all the pods and pulled out the seeds. I now have a mountain (ok, maybe a molehill) of bean seeds.

Does anyone know if you can eat bean seeds like regular dried beans. I would guess so, but have never tried it. Maybe they don't taste as good as the regular 'storing' beans like borlotti, black eyed etc. Maybe they do. Either way, I'd appreciate hearing from anyone's who has tried them.

But regardless of whether they're eat worthy, I have lots of bean seeds for next year. If they aren't edible I'll be trying to palm them off to anyone who would like some for growing. Any takers?

Morning meander...

25 April, 2013

Dew on baby capsicums

The solo passionfruit is still here

Strawberries keep coming along. They're not as tasty as summer ones, but still nice to have.

Rhubarb going to seed. I don't bother removing them and the plants don't seem to suffer too much.

Eggplant growing very slowly. It feels like this one has been the same size for weeks.

Lilly pillies.

Pea seedlings coming up.

The mosquito net has been removed from the brassica bed.

I love how water droplets form on brassica leaves.

Red cabbages, with the morning sun showing their true colours.

Self sown peas already have pods of eating size.
Late sown eggplants are not coping well with the cold. I might try some fleece protection and see if that helps.

Zucchini succumbing to powdery mildew.

Zucchini's are still forming though. Not time to pull the plant out just yet.

This zucchini also had mildew, but I cut all its leaves back. It hasn't recovered. This one is for the compost.

Chillies are forming fruits. Who knows if they will properly ripen.

The tiny, tiny Tigger rockmelons. Also doubtful if these will ripen.

Only one artichoke plant is forming fruits. You go plant!

Garlic starting to come up.

Climbing beans are producing nicely dried pods for seed saving.

Also forming are lots of new beans. Looks like the plants are staging a last minute reproductive effort. Pity I will pick all these for fresh beans.

Late sown corn is forming cobs.

I'm hopeful of a decent crop from these.

Saturday Spotlight... melons...

20 April, 2013

This year I grew six varieties of rockmelon/honeydew melon: Ananas, Orange Sherbet, Lambkin's Hybrid, Tigger, Planters Jumbo and Sweet Granite.

These were all planted a little on the late side in around late Nov/early Dec last year (from my admittedly poor memory) and sprawled to become a mass of plants.

The melon bed

Now heading into the cooler months they have succumbed to a bit of the dreaded powdery mildew.

The melon bed - from a different angle

This however has an unforeseen advantage, as it makes the melons easier to spot.

So far it appears four of the six varieties have set fruit, although some of them look a bit small and I'm not confident they will ripen fully.

But happily, some are well on the way to ripeness. I find the best indicator of a ripe melon (of the rockmelon/cantaulope and honeydew melon variety) is by smell. The scent fills the air. A good melon calls to you.

Today I picked three ripe smelling melons.

Now because my melon bed was so overcrowded I needed to go back to my melon seeds and the seed company websites to be sure which was which. And I've hit a little dilemma.

Now I know this one is a Planters Jumbo.

This one I was able to determine, is a Lambkin's Hybrid.

However this one is a complete mystery.

From the photo's available on the various seed company websites from which I purchased my seeds, none of the photos match this variety. And it is a honeydew (i.e. green fleshed) melon, which doesn't match up with four remaining varieties which are all rockmelon/cantaulope (i.e. orange fleshed) melons.  


I have no idea what is going on. But anyhoo, back to the spotlight.

The unknown variety has produced five fruits, but they are all a bit on the small side. The taste is pleasant,  not particularly sweet, thought I may have picked this one a little under-ripe. Did my nose deceive me? Probably. I'm reserving judgement on this variety until I've tried at least one more that I'm sure was fully ripe.

The Planters Jumbo set three fruits. It has lived up to it's name by producing the biggest melons of the lot.

Here is an inside view.

Taste wise I find the flavour is good, but it has a somewhat mealy texture. I have grown Charentais melons before and I thought they were better.

Lambkin's Hybrid is my favourite so far. This one set four fruits, all of a reasonable size. They were the first to ripen and this is the third of four that I've picked.

They have all been sweet, firm fleshed and delicious! I'm definitely growing this one again (I got the seed from Territorial Seeds.) Also, it goes as kind of yellow colour when it ripens which makes for easy pickings.

So overall melons have been reasonably successful. But if anyone can assist with identifying the unknown variety that would be greatly appreciated. Especially if on further pickings it turns out to be quite good.

I'm contributing this to Liz's Saturday Spotlight series.

Zucchini Tuesday...

16 April, 2013

The Costata zucchini has pulled up its socks and produced not one, but two zucchini for Zucchini Tuesday.

Those, along with some tuscan and green kale, eggplant, beans, tomatoes and, for dessert, one of the first melons and a couple of strawberries.

This, to me, said soup. So soup it became.

Tomato trial update... the final countdown...

12 April, 2013

Over the summer of 2012/13 I have trialled 16 varieties of tomato in my little garden in Melbourne's west.

I had originally planned to test these toms in three areas: first to crop, largest crop per plant, and taste. Unfortunately I only managed the first two of those, as not all fruited at the same time so there wasn't able to be a true taste test to see which tomato reigns supreme.

Most of my trial tomatoes are looking pretty sad.

Only two tomatoes are still flowering and fruiting:

Isis Candy - still with some ripening fruit and flowers.
Garden Peach - staging a revival and flowering again. Will fruit follow?... stay tuned.

However, now that the tomatoes are pretty much done for the year, I can assess which tomato performed the best in terms of providing me and my many tomato beneficiaries with toms this season.

But first, the award for first tomato to fruit goes to.... Siberian. [smattering of polite applause]

And now, the moment we have all been waiting for. The award for best producing tomato 2012-13 goes to...

Garden Peach!

Runners up were Ned Kelly and Siberian.

Results as below (average per plant, from two plants grown):
Garden Peach - 1665g
Siberian - 1625g
Ned Kelly - 1580g
Principe Borghese - 1355g
Isis Candy - 1345g
Rouge De Marmande - 1305g
Lemon Drop - 1295g
Gardeners Delight - 1275g
Black Cherry - 1230g
Tommy Toe - 1140g
Green Zebra - 850g
Mortgage Lifter - 780g 
Big White Pink Stripe - 560g
Black Krim - 280g

Earl of Edgecombe - DNF
Beam's Yellow Pear - DNF

Of all of these, I will definitely grow Garden Peach, Siberian, Ned Kelly, Isis Candy, Lemon Drop, Gardeners Delight and Green Zebra. The others are maybe's for now, but I will probably give them another go. I have seeds to use up.

Does anyone have any other must-grow tomato varieties I should put on the list for next year?

No Zucchini Tuesday...

09 April, 2013

Today I arrived home and really wanted to make zucchini and bacon soup. I even had bought the good sourdough spelt bread from the markets on the weekend.

But to no avail. There were no zucchini's to be had.

My zucchini plants have failed me. I couldn't even take a photo as it was too dark when I was scoping out the plants.

This to me truly makes it hit home that summer is out and autumn is in.

I had to make pasta for dinner.

I know: first world problems.

How to make your own homemade duck feed...

07 April, 2013

Since I got my ducks in early Jan I've been learning a lot about what they will and won't eat.

Will: conventional poultry feed, tomatoes, cherry tree leaves, stale bread, dandelion, horseradish leaves, slugs and bugs of any kind,

Won't: snails (unless pre-squished), strawberry leaves, rocket, iris, rhubarb, rosemary, corn leaves.

While I am more than happy for them to eat bugs and dandelion, and will put up with them eating the tomatoes, cherry and horseradish that they can reach, I really wanted to not have to feed them conventional poultry pellets. Not only because they are highly processed and (to a lesser, but important, extent) cost me money, but because I had read that poultry pellets are designed for chickens and ducks have higher protein requirements and also can be made sick by the antibiotics that are generally in conventional poultry feeds. 

So I decided to make my own.

What a palaver that turned out to be. I searched the source of all information - the interwebs - and found some really useful information, but not what I had really wanted; a simple recipe to make duck suitable feed. So here is what I eventually came up with, and hopefully it will help someone out there who trawls the net for a recipe for a duck friendly feed.

But firstly, the resources that I have used to come up with this recipe:

I also used some nutritional analysis software to put together this mix (a small benefit of being a dietitian by trade, not that I did this analysis on my work computer, during work time... of course not), which has a 17% protein content.

Homemade duck feed:
1kg wheat
1kg barley/oats
1kg maize (corn)
1.5kg chickpeas
1kg lentils/peas
350g sunflower seeds
50g shell grit

This is something I do in the thermomix, to grind the bigger grains into a more manageable consistancy. Now  I have given the ducks whole seed and they seem to do ok, but I heard that whole seed (particularly big grains like maize/corn) can cause problems, so I like to partially grind the grains for my mix.

Generally 6 seconds on 9-10 works well.

Wheat pre-grind

Wheat post-grind

Maize/corn pre-grind

Maize/corn post-grind

I'm quite lucky that my mother works as a seed analyst in an agricultural laboratory and is able to give me all the excess seed that are used for testing, when the owners don't want them back. So I have an almost unlimited free supply of grains and seeds to make the feed. Though I've seen some pet food stores stock the grains and they look to be cheaper than buying the commercial stuff. 

Now even with the best mix of grains, the feed will not be nutritionally adequate for ducks in terms of micronutrients - ie vitamins and minerals, particularly niacin, vitamin A and  vitamin D. So I add a poultry vitamin mix I bought online.

With all the grains weighed and ground as required and the vitamin powder added I then give it all a good mix.

This makes about two weeks worth and I keep it in a plastic storage container in the duck pen. They haven't discovered it... yet.

As you can see some grains are still whole, but no really big grains remain.

The ducks got weaned off the commercial pellets over a 4 week period, from a 50/50 mix, to a 75/50 mix, to a mostly homemade mix.

They seem to love this just as much as the pellet stuff.

The two boys (Bloom and Thal) right and left, with girl duck Heston centre. Yes, I have named my ducks Heston, Bloom and Thal - get it? 

That said they still eat all they tomato, cherry leaves, horseradish leaves and dandelion they can get their beaks on.