Seed sorting...

21 July, 2015

One of the most enjoyable gardening tasks of the year is one that doesn't even happen in the garden. Around this time, one cold wintry night or day I pull out the seed boxes and start the wishful planning of the summer garden.

This year round it just happened to be on one of the coldest nights of the year, hence the heater is blazing.

Firstly I took stock of what seed I have. Actually, I have plenty.

I sorted the cucumber seeds (5 varieties; might look at more), eggplant (4 varieties; must get more seeds), cantaloupes/rockmelons (4 varieties; enough), watermelons (3 varieties; plenty), zucchini (2 varieties; more than enough), pumpkin (3 varieties; that'll do)  into sowing for October, when I get back from my next holiday.

Unfortunately, I'll be overseas during September and the start of October, which is prime gardening time. It's not that sad, as I'll be having a lovely time in Italy and Spain I'm sure, but it does mean a little forward thinking will be required to ensure the summer garden harvest doesn't suffer too much.

I've prioritised tomatoes and peppers for early sowings, hoping that with a bit of time between now and when I leave I'll be able to coddle them enough to survive until I return.

Of my approximately 45 tomato varieties of which I have seeds, I have prioritised 21 varieties for early sowing. I will probably sow more as the year progresses. At least I am honest with myself. I will also try early sowings of capsicums/peppers, as last year sowing in late September didn't work that well. The plants weren't developed enough and when the hot weather hit they suffered. I'm hoping an earlier sowing will mean stronger plants. We will see.

I've also got some more onion seeds, lettuce and turnips/swede to try. I've never sown these so late, but looking at the seed packets they saw sow between august-spring. Again, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Overall, I could easily get by without buying much. The only seeds I really need to buy is corn. But knowing me I'll end up with a couple more varieties of tomatoes, some cucumbers and peppers, maybe another pumpkin to try. I can't seem to stop myself.

Now I just need to think how I am going to sow these seeds and get them growing. But I have the beginnings of a plan. Just need to nut out the details. Stay tuned.

Jack Frost...

19 July, 2015

We had our first frost of winter last night. And of course, despite the cold, I had to head out and capture it with my camera.

I just love the look of frost on plants. Not so much when the frost sensitive ones are wilted and frost burnt after the thaw. But while there are still icicles attached, and the morning light hits the frost and the plants almost glow, I love the frost.

The bucket is not quite frozen solid, so not a really severe frost. (For Melbourne.)

Brassicas almost seem to embrace the frost.

I also love how the lower leaves capture big drops, which freeze solid. A captured moment in time.
Carrots with frosty ferny fronds.

Despite the frost, the capsicums in the mini greenhouse were not at all affected, despite the greenhouse being open.

Tuscan kale hopefully a little sweeter and tenderer after being frostbitten.

I love how the the frost clings to the furry strawberry leaves.

Finally the mornings are light enough for a pre-work garden pick...

15 July, 2015

What to do on a rainy day...

12 July, 2015

Today it has been bucketing down in Melbourne. I'm very happy to see the rain, but it does mean I can't get into the garden as much as I'd like. I did some gardening early this morning until it started to really pelt down. Then I had to look for non-outdoor activities.

What's the closest thing to food gardening. Well cooking from the garden of course.

Given I had a bit of time, I decided to do a dish I'd been meaning to do for a while. In fact, I let a nettle plant that sprung up in my garden the year before last go to seed on purpose. I this year have a healthy bunch of nettles in the orchard, and so I put on the raincoat and picked them with the express purpose of making nettle pasta.

So that's what I did.

I picked a basket of the lushest nettle tops. It was probably around the equivalent of 6 big handfuls of nettle, though you'd never want to handle a handful of nettles without the toughest of gloves. Unless you are the type who likes pain.

Said amount of nettles were blanched in boiling water then fished out and put in a bowl of iced water. This apparently ensures they stay a nice bright green, as opposed to overcooking and going a bleugh grey colour.

The blanched tops got a through whizzing in the thermomix to get fully pulped, then the pulp (around one and a half cups) was mixed with 500g flour, 2 eggs and a little water, again in the thermomix.

I let the dough rest, then got to work with the pasta maker.

After much rolling, I have a bunch of nettle fettuchini...

(mmm, pasta)

... and a heap of sheets I will dry and break up for lasagne.

Just look at that lurid green.

I just hope it tastes as good as it looks.

Now I'm off to do my other favourite thing on a rainy day, sit on the couch and re-read an old favourite.

Garden Share Collective: July...

05 July, 2015

It's that time again, welcome to this month's instalment of the Garden Share Collective.

The days are short and there isn't much time to spend in the garden. Weekends go too quickly and weekdays hours outside of working life are dark and dreary. But still the garden goes.




The last few days have been rainy, which is most welcome given the lack of rain we have had so far this year.

As one would expect in winter, most of the leaves have fallen and the branches are barren. But this allows for a bit of garden maintenance.

I pruned back the cherry and plum trees.

Cherry trees planted in a Spanish bush method.

Bare branches also allows for investigating fruiting buds for next year and imagining lots of fruit on it's way.

Almond buds.

Other garden tasks have been to make a more structured support for the peas in the wicking beds.

This should stop them from flopping all over the place.

I also sowed direct two lots of onion seeds. This is what has come up so far.

i.e. Not a lot. Luckily for the purple sprouting broccoli in that bed, otherwise I'd be feeling like there isn't anything at all happening.

Also luckily there have been self sown onions from last years crops that didn't crop under the apple espalier.

If nothing comes up soon I'll try sowing some in punnets, so see if it dud seed or if it is eaten by bugs. I've never had onion seed not come up like this. It's been 3 weeks, so I'd expect to see some movement by now.

I've also started some manuring and mulching, mainly over the asparagus bed and summer fruiting raspberry bed.

Asparagus beds with stalks cut back, lavish spread of well aged pigeon manure and a heap of mulch.

Raspberry beds got the same treatment.


Apart from the onion seeds which haven't sprouted, absolutely zilch. This is by far the quietest month in the garden for the year, with only little gentle harvesting and garden maintenance. June is the month of taking stock, doing tasks when the weather permits, and generally waiting for winter to pass.


Garden harvests continue to be pretty good.

There is lots of brassicas including the cauli's, broccoli and purple sprouting broccoli. Likewise greens like lettuce and silverbeet are almost daily harvests.

Looks like the silverbeet on the right is in need of a picking.

The cabbages continue to elude me and are only just starting to form hearts.

On the fruit front the apples have all been picked, but the raspberries continue to amaze with a handful or two of harvests each week.

The lemons however are not so stingy. The Eureka lemon has been generously giving lemons regularly, so picks like this to make lemon cordial today are not uncommon. I could pick basketfuls like this for weeks and barely make a dint.

Another harvest has been the violets. These are great as decoration, but I'm still toying with the idea of making another batch of sugared violets.

To do:

  • Keep an eye on the onions and maybe resow more seed.
  • Audit the seed boxes and make a list for seed buying for the coming summer crops.
  • Figure out how to prevent earwigs from eating my apple blossoms and preventing fruit set. At this stage I'm thinking some sort of sticky barrier on the plant stems and supports to prevent them climbing the trees. Any additional suggestions would be most welcome.
  • Spray the stone fruit (peaches and nectarines) with copper spray before bud burst to prevent peach leaf curl. Typically bud burst is around end August, so I need to spray before then and make sure the copper spray doesn't get washed off by rain in between.
  • Maybe do some super early sowings of tomatoes, just for a trial. 

What is your garden plan for the coming month?

$21 challenge: week 3 and 4 update...

01 July, 2015

It is now the end of the month long challenge I set myself to eat from the backyard and cupboard, and spend less than $21 on groceries.

Unfortunately for blogging life got in the way of the week 3 update, so here is the week 3 and week 4 wrap up combined.

The kitty had remained with $12.70 at the end of week 2.

Week 3 saw the purchase of more milk, and a splurge on some sour cream and avocado. Luckily for the challenge kitty at the checkout the marked down avocado (discounted to $2.50 for two avo's) didn't scan properly, so I ended up getting them for free. Bargain!

Thus the end of week 3 saw the challenge kitty stand at $9.50 ($2.00 for milk and $1.20 for sour cream).

As you may have already guessed given the purchased ingredients, I had the makings of a Mexican feast. With some homemade salsa, freezer beef stores, homegrown capsicums still going in the mini greenhouse and onions from the 10kg bag I had the makings of fajitas. But the store bought tortillas were out of my price range.

What to do? Why, make them yourself of course!

A quick google search showed many a recipe for tortillas, and I now can't recall which one I ended up using. Either way, a mix of flour, water and a pinch of salt, knead and rest, then roll out flat as you can and round as you can, then cook in a hot dry frypan. This was not much different to making flat breads, except these didn't puff up as much. They weren't as perfectly round as the bought ones and therefore made for some inventive wrapping techniques, but were more delicious being so fresh. The avocados were mashed into guacamole with lots of homegrown lemon juice. This meal lasted for quite a few meals and leftovers. Unfortunately not one of them got photographed. Clearly I was too busy scoffing.

The other more inventive meal was mushroom crepes. Clearly I was yearning for comfort food. Maybe I had just gotten into a wrapping food theme. I don't know. Either way, it worked out quite well. I made a few crepes with flour, an egg and just enough milk to make a thin batter. Let rest for 30mins before cooking. This gave enough time to defrost a packet of foraged mushrooms and cook up a quick bechamel. Mix mushrooms into bechamel, then fill the cooked crepes, lay filled crepes in a baking dish and top with more bechamel and cheese. Bake until toasty. Serve with self sown salad leaves.

The other bonus of crepes is the opportunity, nay the necessity, to nom the leftover crepes with sugar and lemon juice.

They were the main meals of week 3, with a few quick lunches of toast with eggs or tinned fish and a few boring dinners of pasta with homemade, homegrown passata. Breakfasts followed the usual theme of yoghurt and fruit (now using the bottled apricots) and weekend porridge with prunes. I've actually reached the end of one jar of my dried fruit (previously bought dried mandarins, so delicious!) but still have lots of home dried pears, plums and apples, and lots of bought dried pineapple, cherries and sultanas, as well as nuts, for snacks. I've been drinking a lot more hot lemon drinks instead of tea (I just got sick of drinking tea for some strange reason, so converted) and I'm loving it as a warming winter beverage.

Onto week 4, the final week.

This is where the end was in sight, and I was a little sick of trying to come up with tasty meals based on freezer and cupboard items. But I had committed and needed to stick it out.

Luckily there was still plenty of foodstuffs in the garden and the pantry. One of the things I had intended to make, but ended up leaving until the last week was pork schnitzels. These used up some remaining panko breadcrumbs, a couple of eggs, flour and of course the schnitzels from the freezer. I served these with frozen mashed potatoes (I always make a big batch and freeze extra's in containers),  some early purple sprouting broccoli and my second last jar of fig chutney, made at least 3 years ago and still good.

I also was in the mood for sweets, so used some frozen blueberries and a rough scone dough to make a blueberry cobbler. It was too good and did not last long enough to get the camera out.

Other meals have included more purple sprouting broccoli made into a warm salad with orzo pasta (this had been in the cupboard for a while), more passata based pasta dishes, and some fried halloumi with silverbeet. Snacks remain dried fruit and nuts. Breakfasts are still yoghurt and fruit, with the odd extra weekend breakfast of a herb omelette (containing homegrown parsley, sage, chives and thyme), mushrooms and my darling mother's lovely sourdough bread.

Bought over the week has been only another 2L of milk, bringing the remainder to $7.50. I cannot believe I still have 35% of my original budget left over. And I still have plenty of freezer meat, frozen raspberries/blueberries, dried fruit stores, preserved goods, a cupboard full of pasta, couscous, barley, freekeh, noodles, rice, the nuts, flour, eggs and other bits a bobs that can easily make delicious meals.

Really, it just goes to show that so much of what I buy on a regular basis really isn't necessary. I think from now on I am going to use Lisa's strategy of having a monthly food budget, and by the end of the month if there isn't much left I am then forced to eat from the stores. Not only a frugal exercise but an exercise in waste not, want not.