I love this greenhouse...

31 October, 2013

A few weeks back I set up my mini greenhouse (bought on a whim back in the darkest depths of winter when summer crops were only wishful thinking) and sowed many summer crops. At the same time I also sowed some of the same crops, like zucchini and cucumbers, directly outside. 

The greenhouse is kicking it, while the outside sown seeds have yet to make an appearance. Hence I love this greenhouse, and wish I had one much earlier!
Some eggplants are up...

... but some not.

Some are getting eaten (see in left tub). Not sure what is doing this damage. Can anyone diagnose?

Cucumbers are going great guns though.

Likewise the squashes.

My tomatoes for passata.

Peppers and capsicums are up.

Though I had to look closely for these ones.

Go zucchini's!

And the first time I'm growing this one. The name just sounded so interesting.

Harvest Monday...

28 October, 2013

Yay for Harvest Monday. Thanks to Daphne for starting the tradition of worldwide gardeners sharing their harvests.

Now that I am no longer doing my monthly veg challenge updates, I need an outlet for all the photos I take of my veg harvests. So here it is.

Some asparagus spears and a tiny, tiny cauliflower.

(Also my Aperge knife, which was a souvenir from the BEST lunch I have ever had in my life. Aperge is the restaurant of Alain Passard, who in the early naughties shocked the fine dining world by announcing he was bored of cooking meat and was getting into cooking vegetables. He has his own gardens outside Paris which supply part of the veg for the restaurant. So I feel it is apt that my Aperge knife has become my gardening knife.)

A big bunch of red Russian kale.

A few parsnips, only the front one being decent looking. All the others in the back there are forked and twisted, but still tasted lovely.

And joy of joys, the strawberries are coming in.

Don't forget to head to Daphne's to see what others are picking.

A sitting duck...

23 October, 2013

It would seem that there may be ducklings heading my way.

While I was away my housesitter and friendly duck feeder had reported that for a few days duck eggs were hard to find. Eventually she would happen upon the stash, they would be collected and that was that. But since I've been back the same thing would happen to me. For a few days I didn't search too hard, and now it appears there will be no eggs for a while now. She has been sitting for about a week now and is being a very good protective mama and not letting anyone or anything near her egg stash.

Heston is sitting on her eggs. When she gets off to drink or eat I can see about 9 eggs in her little nest. Now my interwebs research says that duck eggs take about a month to incubate, so in three weeks or so we will see if we have little ducklings.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them should I there be a decent survival rate. I don't really want more ducks, so I'm thinking selling them will be the go. But if I can't sell them then they may go the way of the other three ducks no longer with us. I expect this will be more difficult having raised them from ducklings, but at the end of the day this is what you need to be prepared for if you keep livestock.

But until then there is the anticipation of little baby quackers. Exciting times.

Wire column potatoes...

20 October, 2013

During a recent pantry inventory I found that some bought potatoes had decided that I had taken way to long to use them and they were going to revolt and make an attempt to grow.

Who am I to deny a plant the right to life?

So I  decided this would be a great opportunity to re-trial a method of growing potatoes I've previously had fail. This way I also won't be greatly disappointed if it doesn't work, as I won't have used any bought seed potatoes and wasted them.

This method is one of the ways you can grow potatoes in an upward manner, continually heaping them with additional soil and making the plants grow taller and taller, with in theory more potatoes growing along the lengthened stems and increasing yield.

I previously tried this last year, but the budding plants got eaten. Epic fail! Hopefully results will be better this year.

The strategy goes like this:

Find sunny part of garden. Hammer in some star pickets (or other support method) for your wire columns.

Find some lengths of wire lattice (or plastic, or whatever) and attach these at one side to your support.

Don't attach both sides, as then trying to bend down over the wire sides to get to the bottom is really awkward and annoying.

Then use some newspapers to line your wire column at the bottom. This both stops soil falling out and provides some barrier to prevent moisture loss, so you want it to be thick.

Add potatoes.

Close the wire column by attaching the other end to the star picket and top up the soil to cover the potatoes.

There it is.

As the potatoes grow I will be adding more newspaper barrier and soil and hopefully there will be lots of potatoes growing up inside.

Flowers and fruit...

15 October, 2013

I love how this time of year is so full of promise. The trees are flowering and its a waiting game to see what sets fruit.

Here are some hopes and some success stories.

Starting with stone fruit, peaches and nectarines are coming along.

This is a flat peach fruiting for the first time.

The white nectarine has set masses of fruit and will probably need thinning.

The sour cherries are blooming like mad...

... while the sweet cherries are slowly swelling.

Berries are not wanting to be left out.

The strawberries are almost ready. Not as early as your Louise, but they are not too far behind.

Blackberries are flowering too. Bring on fruit: I want enough for jam.

Pome fruits are not being shy.

Apples are flowering and setting fruit. I'll give it another couple of weeks before I say for sure what has set fruit and what hasn't, but there are at least a few baby apples on their way.

I have pears!!! Three years of tending the Belgian Pear espalier and finally I have fruitlets.

And last but not least, the citrus.

Lemon is going mad, as lemons do.

The orange is also flowering and may give fruits. In previous years set fruit has not matured, so I'm only cautiously optimistic.

Likewise the espaliered lime. Fingers crossed though.

Choking on chokes...

13 October, 2013

With the weather in Melbourne being horrible and rainy most of today I was stuck inside. Which is not a bad place to be when there is produce to be preserved.

One of the plants going amazeballs at the moment is the artichokes.

In fact, I am bordering on an artichoke glut. Heading out into the garden in a brief respite from the rain harvested a bountiful basket of artichoke heads.

Some of them were absolutely massive!

Now while I do love my Artichoke Risotto recipe, this was way too many for me to try and use up in this recipe. I needed a recipe that would do away with many, many artichokes. So I headed to the bookshelf and narrowed in on the preserving section.

Flipping through my utterly excessive collection of preserving and recipe books, I came along a recipe that required 48 artichoke heads. This is my kinda recipe.

Of course they were supposed to be baby artichokes, but I figure I can substitute a lesser quantity of more adult sized artichokes and no one would be the wiser.

Also, the book has mason ball jars on the front, which is my preserving vessel of choice, so I felt this was a good omen.

The thing I also like about this book, is that as well as the recipes for preserving things, it also gives a couple of recipes for using the preserved goods. Artichoke gratin here I come!

After wrestling with these mammoth artichoke heads and doing some mega chopping, I had my delicious artichoke hearts. I mainly quartered these, though some of the really huge ones were chopped into eighths. Close enough to baby artichoke size I says. These got par-boiled in the delicious mix of vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and herbage as per the recipe, then decanted into my mason jars. Into the Fowlers Vaccola for 25 minutes, lending a much welcome warm and slightly steamy element to the kitchen.

Now I have jars of delicious artichokes to keep me warm for the next cold, rainy day. Pity the recipe suggests you leave them for 3-4 weeks before opening. I feel like some Artichoke Gratin now.

Catching up on growing...

11 October, 2013

Having only been back from my holiday for a week now, I feel I am definitely behind the planting times.

So I am using all tools at my disposal to hurry along the growing of my summer crops, and my newest tool in the arsenal is my new greenhouse.

I bought this large-ish greenhouse from the big-green-shed-store-which-shall-remain-nameless before I went on holiday. I mostly bought it because it was on sale. 

On the advice of Cat I have loaded up the bottom layer with bricks to keep it stable. Hopefully there will be no seedling disasters with the excessive winds we've been having across Melbourne lately.

I have planted up my cucumber, capsicum, pepper and zucchini seeds.  

Hopefully they will like the new digs and grow very, very quickly. 

I am also thinking I can use it to extend the season by moving it to my raised beds and covering the grown toms when the weather starts to cool in autumn. Given it is a crappy cheap one I have no idea how long it will last.

Do you use your greenhouse for anything other than raising seedlings?

Garden - post-holiday...

06 October, 2013

Hiya y'all. I'm back! After having braved the horrors of the 24 hour flight home I arrived back in Melbourne, Australia at the god forsaken hour of 5:15am. But I was awake and excited to see how the garden had been holding up while I was away. So pretty much first thing I did on arriving home was head out into the garden.

If you will recall I did a post on my pre-holiday garden. Here is the comparison of mid-August (i.e. end winter) with October (i.e. mid-spring):

Back yard:



The peach (variety 'Anzac') has blossomed and set fruit! I reckon there would be easily 30 peaches on the tree, which is a massive gain from last years' 11 fruits. Given the tree is only two years old I'm very pleased.

Also on the fruiting front, the step-over apples are flowering like mad. I really hope these set fruit!

Interestingly though, these are variety 'Pink Lady', and I have another 'Pink Lady' in the orchard (see later in post) in a standard cordon espalier, which hasn't come close to flowering yet. I'm guessing its micro-climate, but I'm intrigued.

The other side of the backyard looks much the same.



The bearded irises are looking pretty, but otherwise it is much the same. The standard apples are just about to burst into flower and the passionfruit is putting out new growth, but obviously its early days for this bit.

Onto the front yard:



Again, not much different here. The only thing is on the left the pear tree has gone into leaf. I can't see any baby pears on it, sadly. The lemon tree though is making up for its lack of production, going into flower and I can already see many, many baby lemons forming. I think a lemon give-away to friends and family is in order.

Moving further into the front yard, changes appear.



The gorgeously foliaged smoke bush (front and centre in magenta-y leaves) has come into its own, which unfortunately mostly hides the plum tree in the bed behind. It has precisely three flowers on it. Fingers crossed I will get the first fruit from this tree.

On the right though, is the white mulberry. It has lots of little mulberries on it. I'm very excited about this, as this is the second white mulberry tree I've had. The first one took a couple of years to fruit, then as it turned out, they were not white mulberries.

I was not pleased.

In the end I ripped out the tree and replaced it with this one from Daley's Fruit Trees (no kickback for me, I just have always found their plants to be excellent). This one is the variety 'White Shahtoot'. I hope not to be disappointed this time.

The celeriac has gone to seed. I'm letting it, and hoping that the saved seed will work well in my garden. I've always found celeriac doesn't germinate well for me. That said, I can't remember if the celeriac are heirloom or hybrid type. If hybrid I may be wasting my time. Ah well.  

Also going to seed are the lettuces. The ducks will be happy, as they will get those.

The brassicas have gone mad! Pretty much everything in the brassica bed has gone to seed, including tuscan kale, green curly kale and red russian kale, unformed red cabbages, purple sprouting broccoli (I'm really sad I missed those), a couple of cabbages I can't remember the variety of, and the red brussels sprouts of which I precisely nil brussels sprouts from.

They are also completely covered in aphids. They will get pulled out and go into the compost this weekend.

Only one savoy cabbage has not gone to seed, and the mini white cauliflowers. I have no idea if I'll get cauliflowers from these, but am hoping so.

However there are some plants I'm happy to see go to seed, or at least attempt to. The artichokes are going completely nuts. I think I counted eight artichokes on one plant!

It may be time for Artichoke Risotto.

The main raised veg patch has some small changes.



The peas are still going mad. Of the early sown tomatoes only four varieties survived, so emergency re-sowing of tomatoes will be a top priority.

The only new plants in the veg patch are some bean seedlings that have come up. I know I planted many more seeds than this, so I hope the others are not too far behind. That said, I usually have lots of problems with bean seedlings being eaten, so I'm very happy these have escaped the notice of the bugs. 

And lastly, onto the orchard.



(Again, please ignore the house tiles from previous garden bed edging. I will put them away this weekend. I promise.)Unfortunately this photo doesn't show the spring time changes well.

Its hard to see, but quite a few apple trees are blooming. This gives you a bit of an idea what they look like on the supports.

The trees in this area range from 1-3 years old, some of them being transplanted and/or re-trained in that time, so they are all quite young, but I have hopes of some apples from the orchard this year. 

This is one of the oldest apple espaliers, being 4 years old. It is being trained in a totally different espalier style, being a variation on the traditional T shape, which is called the KNNN form.

There are many flowers, and I'm hopeful there will be lots of fruit on this one.

Also in the orchard area is that stalwart of the early spring harvests: Asparagus. They are growing madly.

I've been neglecting the asparagus of late. All year I kept meaning to give them a good feed with manure and compost, and mulch them well to stop weeds. Obviously I have done none of that, but they have thrived anyway. Another thing for the list for next year.

Another pre-holiday plant-and-hope-for-the-best has come good, with the potato plants looking lush.

They do need a good topping up of the planter barrels to hopefully increase the yield, but they are growing very well and I feel this may be a good year for potatoes.

So that's it for the garden comparison. I can't wait to get back into the garden and get my hands dirty!