Very late apples...

25 July, 2014


Following up on my run down of my early apple harvest and mid-season apple harvest, here is the latest harvest of apples.

(For more info on the 50+ apple trees I currently grow in my suburban garden, see here.)

The majority of the late cropping apples have been the Sundowners. This apple killed it with produce this year, setting over 100 apples which I later thinned to about 50 in an effort to stop the tree from exhausing itself and becoming a bi-annual producer. Given this tree was one of the first apples planted in 2009, I would expect it to be hitting its stride about now.


These apples start as a muted green and red striped apple, and I picked a few of these early apples in around May when they were a bit under-ripe and tart. By mid-winter they really come into their own, turning a gorgeous dark red worthy of a witches spell.

The flavour of the Sundowner is nice, but unremarkable. It is a tart-ish, sweet-ish apple-y flavour, very enjoyable but nothing special excepting that it grew in my yard and I have the added fun of picking an apple for my work lunch on the way out to my car in the morning, which I'm sure adds to the eating pleasure.

The other late cropping apple which set fruit this year was the Lady Williams. This was a tree planted out in (I think) 2012 and this has been its first crop. It set two apples, which I have been fiercely guarding from marauding possums and birds and the like.


These are a beautiful red with green-y-yellow-y splotches. The flavour was a slightly honey-ed tart-ish flavour, and given it's parent apples are the Granny Smith and Rokewood (and itself being crossed with Golden Delicious to produce both the Cripp's Pink aka Pink Lady and the aforementioned Sundowner) I can see where those flavours came from. It really does taste a little of Granny Smith. I've also heard that they are even better tasting when they've been picked and stored for a bit, so I'm leaving the other one for a month or so and seeing if it is true.

Given the rest of the garden is truly in winter mode, I love having fresh fruit to pick in the middle of winter. Late apples really are worthwhile even for that joy alone. 

Winter berry madness...

20 July, 2014


There are berries, albeit few and far between, in the garden. In winter.

Autumn Bliss raspberries, not realising it is actually winter.

Strawberries fruits actually ripening. Looks like the bluestone borders are helping them along. Yay microclimate.

If I didn't have photographic evidence, I don't think I would believe it myself.

Peas on the way...

17 July, 2014

I got a surprise on an early (i.e. still light) evening afternoon walk around the garden.

I've got two lots of peas on the grow, one being a self sown lot that came up in last years' legume bed, which made me think that if they can germinate, so can some others. Thus the second lot was sown not long after (in April, from my admittedly poor memory).

The self sown ones are purple podded, grown from seed saved from year to year from the original packet bought about five years ago now.

They come up every year.


That's them in the somewhat crooked teepee I put up for them just this weekend gone. Which they seem to like, as they've already started flowering.


I really like these as they are prolific, as well as being easy to harvest as the purple pods stick out a mile.

That said, I also like other peas.

The sown Greenfeast peas (in the proper legume bed rotation) are just next door, and were sown in a pleasing line between the arch posts to make for easy training. I've already given them some sticks to climb up, and I'll be putting up string lines between the posts this weekend to give them something to grow up.


These peas have been growing well though they are obviously behind the self sown seed eight ball.

But despite being shorter, they are also flowering.


Pea flowers are just so pretty.

And bonus, they turn into peas.

Not too long now!

Harvest Monday...

14 July, 2014

Once again we come to Harvest Monday, led by the fabulous Daphne.

My harvests are all about consistancy, not variety.

Lots of broccoli.


The first cauli, and some kale.


A few bunching onions from last years' onions gone to seed.


And more kale, and more broccoli.


Not shown are a few lettuce leaves, a few rhubarb stalks and Sundowner apples.

For hopefully more interesting harvests, check out other Harvest Monday posts from around the globe at Daphne's.

Maybe more asparagus...

11 July, 2014

Asparagus is one of the best things to grow in the garden I reckon. It grows in profusion once established and really isn't that picky, apart from not liking being in a damp location (not so much an issue in our arid climate). 

It will like you it if you spare the time to give it a bit of manure and compost every year or two, but will still crop well if you don't. (This year was the first year my asparagus patch got a compost topping in 5 years! I've still had lots of asparagus from it.)

I originally grew asparagus plants from crowns (variety Mary Washington) I bought in the big green shed hardware store. All five crowns survived, and some even were strong enough for me to risk picking a spear or two in their first year.

Year 2 (2011) harvest. Please ignore the weeds here.

The following year I extended the supply by growing them from seed (from Diggers, varieties Fat Bastard - LOVE the name - and Purple). These germinated well and were planted out after they went dormant - i.e. homegrown first year crowns. Sadly all of the purple ones died, but the Fat Bastards have grown well.

Now I have a large patch with about 10 plants. I harvest them from first spear to around December, then let the spears grow into the amazing fern like plants they are.

Stalks transmogrifying into ferns.

Asparagus plants let grow.

These then die back in winter, ready to re-sprout delicious asparagus spears come spring.

But I'm interested in extending the asparagus bed further. Rather than buying more seed, I'm wondering if I can grow my own.

The asparagus patch has fully gone dormant now we are in winter.


When looking closer I can see the remnants of the bright red berries that only some of my plants develop. These have mellowed to golden orbs and have an almost translucent quality to them.


 Inside these golden orbs are what looks like fully mature asparagus seeds.


Five seeds in one berry. Not bad.

I scratched a little dirt aside and planted these in the patch then and there.

Then I went inside to do some research. The fabulous book 'Seed to Seed' by Suzanne Ashworth sheds a little light on seed from asparagus. Turns out asparagus plants are hermaphroditic, bearing both male and female parts on the flowers, but as the flowers develop one part aborts leaving either male or female flowers only. Makes sense now that only some of my plants develop seed pods.

However the book is a little less detailed on the seed usefullness part. It outlines how to store the seed (wash off the red gunky stuff and dry well, then store. But there appears to be no reason why my asparagus produced seed won't be viable.

So this weekends to-do list now contains the added task of gathering the left berries and washing and drying asparagus seeds, for spring planting.

Then I shall cut back the dead asparagus stalks and mulch the plants well and count down the days to spring and the first asparagus stalk harvest.

Garden Share Collective: July

06 July, 2014

Welcome to this month's installment of Garden Share Collective, where gardeners across the globe share their gardening adventures. Many thanks to Lizzie for putting this all together.


This is my garden circa now.

Back yard view.

Front yard view, with cat.

Raised bed veg patch


The deciduous trees have mostly lost their leaves, with only a few stragglers like some apples, some of the espaliered pears, a few blueberries and the white mulberry.

Pear Belgian fence style espalier, with 3 varieties of pear all in different stages of leaf drop.

The brassicas continue to go at it, albeit with still the damage of the dreaded white cabbage butterfly to contend with. I'm still squishing the larvae every time I head out to check on the plants.

Other than that things are pretty quiet. But I've been making a few small changes.

Planting

Only planting this month has been making a new strawberry bed.


I do this annually to ensure I always have a new bed of young plants that will keep me in peak strawberry production. I take these new plants from the runners of last year's plantings, which also helps me to thin older beds and ensure they don't get too cramped, which would reduce the produce and increase the risk of fungal diseases should we have a wet enough season.

I've covered the new plants with wire and plastic lattice to stop the birds from pulling out plants in their search for worms. I will remove these and add mulch later in about mid-spring after the ground has warmed up a little.

Harvesting

As you would expect, there have been lots and lots of brassicas. Broccoli has been beheaded regularly. Kale (Tuscan and Red Russian) are picked almost daily.

Just a few brassicas; on left savoy cabbages and Tuscan kale, and on right mini cauliflowers

The first cauliflowers are likely to be harvested this week, now that I've folded the leaves over the developing heads to stop them going yellow.

Camera shy cauli, with squshed white cabbage butterly larvae

In other almost harvests, I'm keeping an eye on my one surviving fennel plant from approximately 300 seeds sown, which has sprouted a fennel baby.


In the greenhouse, the chillies and capsicums continue slowly but surely. I've been impressed with how well they have handled the weather in the mini greenhouse and will do this again next year.



Other protected plants include the eggplants in their makeshift glasshouse. They seem to be doing fine (as well as sprouting what I think is a jackarandah tree on the right).


In even more makeshift protection, I've covered a couple more eggplants with light plastic boxes, and they seem to be doing ok.


On the fruit front I'm slowly going through the remaining well netted Sundowner apples.


Its funny that this tree still has plenty of green leaves, while others are nothing but bare bones.

Please ignore the weeds, they will get pulled out when I plant onion seedlings here.

To do:
  • Plant out onion seedlings, when they germinate. Nothing has come up yet. Fingers crossed they do soon, otherwise I'm re-sowing with new seed.
  • Go through seed boxes and see if any seed ordering is needed. Unlikely given my seed boxes are pretty chockers. But likely I'll want more varieties of something. Plan is to try and keep things to a minimum. What do they say about the best laid plans?...
  • Start very early sowings for summer crops. Tomatoes are a must. Eggplant and capsicium would be a bonus.
Let's see if I manage to get through this list in the next month.

For other gardening adventures don't forget to check out others posting for the GSC at Lizzie's.

Why is it so hard to blog in winter?...

03 July, 2014

I'm struggling a bit with blogging. Generally I try to write a post two or three times a week, but over the last month or so that has just seemed so hard.

Maybe because it's so cold and dark outside, or at least it feels particularly on weekdays when I'm stuck in the office all day, that the garden doesn't really seem part of my consciousness.

Maybe it's because garden pickings are mostly in the early hours before I rush off to work, which is not a good time for me to be thinking blog posts, or taking photos of said pickings.

(By the way, current pickings are early spring self sown onions, broccoli, lots of red Russian kale, a few carrots and perpetual spinach, plus the last of the Sundowner apples.)

Maybe it's because by the time I get home I just want to snuggle into the couch with lots of nanna blankets while I watch old episodes of Grand Designs or read books, rather than sit on a proper chair at a proper table and type words on my computer. Somehow I just never seem to be able to drag my laptop to the couch; they are like magnetic opposites, never the twain shall meet.

Maybe it's because the garden just seems to grow so slowly at this time of year, and I don't really feel I have anything new to write about. It feels like it's been the same for weeks. Still just brassicas producing the main crops while everything else is in hibernation, including me.

Maybe it's because not much new is happening on the gardening front, just waiting for time to pass before the seeds boxes get dragged out, seeds stock audits are completed and I finally can start sowing the seeds for early summer crops. But that won't be for a few weeks yet in, although I see some clever people in blog land have started already.

Who knows. Probably a combination of all, plus more I haven't mentioned. But we are past winter solstice, so things should start moving soon. Then I will have more to write about.