Yes, you can grow a mango in Melbourne...

28 May, 2015

Melbourne is a pretty forgiving climate for a gardener who loves growing food. Our mild temperate/sub-tropical climate is pretty flexible, especially when you exploit the potential offered by microclimates available in most yards.

But the truly tropical fruits seem too hard. Banana's and mangoes spring easily to mind, and yet it is a pretty well established fact that banana's can be grown here. Yes they take a lot longer to fruit (2 years as opposed to 6 months up north) and they need protecting from frosts if you live in an area of Melbs that gets them. But it can be done.

Why then does it seem such a step to grow a mango? Given the choice between eating a banana and a mango I'll always go for the mango. I love them, but hate the idea of them being trucked thousands of kilometers just for my eating pleasure.

The solution: grow my own.

So began the research. Books offered me little help. But by then I had a pretty healthy scepticism of what gardening books say and what is possible. Of course no commercial mango grower would set up shop this far south, but that didn't mean with careful planning that I could grow a tree. Google searches yielded little info on Melbourne grown mangoes, so I figured I would be the guinea pig. What did I have to lose?

In 2011 I bought a Florigon mango from Daley's Fruit Trees. I like Daley's; they have good descriptions of the plants and a good range of varieties (no kickback for me, I have just found them to be reliable and have bought quite a few plants from them). I chose the Florigon as it was a dwarfing variety (only 5m tall, as opposed to the 30m standard mangoes) and was supposedly able to tolerate a cooler climate.

So far it has been the case. I have mine planted in a protected area next to the house on the heater side, so it would get the benefit of waste heat.


This is the tree back in early 2014, when I had planted zucchini and pumpkins in this bed. As you can see it is to the left of the banana (a dwarf Lady Finger) which, as an aside, is now as tall as the house.

Comparitively the mango has grown very slowly. As I am very aware of the need to keep this plant small (aiming for 2-3m max) given the proximity to the house this is a bonus. I am not too worried as in 4 years of growth it has grown to about 1.5m tall.

The plant gets good morning sun in winter and summer, with good summer sun from morning to early afternoon.


It seems to like its spot, growing lush green foliage each year. It has occasionally had leaves get a bit of frost damage develop some black spots, but mostly is looking pretty good.

I would have liked to plant it where it would get more sun, but this also would have meant a more exposed position with greater potential for frost damage. I erred on the side of caution.

After 2 years in the ground it flowered for the first time.

Mango in flower

That year and the following year it flowered and set fruit, but it dropped early.

Tiny, tiny mangoes

But this summer it set fruit and one remained.

First ever mango!!!

I have been watching this since the fruit set in December. It has stayed persistently green and I was getting to the point of thinking I would have to forgo the ripe mango dreams and instead enjoy a green mango Thai style salad.

Why are you still green? Ripen, dammit!

But a couple of weeks ago it started to turn yellow. And today it looked entirely yellow and I couldn't hold off any longer.



Yes, my friends. That is a mango. Grown in Melbourne.

And now, the gratuitous eating shots:

Look at that! Perfectly ripe.

My favourite breakfast: mango and yoghurt.

Nom. Nom. Nom.

Harvest Monday...

25 May, 2015

It's been a little while since I participated in Harvest Monday, courtesy of Daphne of Daphne's Dandelions.

My lack of posting is mainly because I've been harvesting in drips and drabs, and never enough for a decent photo. But today I was out picking early and harvested a pretty representative sample of what is good in the garden at the moment, as well as a first ever harvest which I simply had to share.


There are Jerusalem artichokes, the last of the summer capsicums and Trobonico zucchini, as well as the winter crops of broccoli, kale and lemons. The beetroots are pretty much all year round here.

But most excitingly, you may see a slightly odd shaped lemon right in the middle. That my friends, is my first ever mango!

I cannot wait to eat it.

Don't forget to check out Daphne's for more harvests around the globe.

Wicking buckets are the best...

19 May, 2015

I love wicking buckets! Having started experimenting with these last year with some underperforming blueberries, I have since found that pretty much anything can be grown in a wicking container of some kind.

I am currently growing the following in wicking buckets:

Blueberries


Oranges, lime and mandarin espaliered along the back fence.


Main rationale for that is the fence was always going to need to be rebuilt, and I wanted to be able to move the plants out of the way, as I don't trust tradies to not step all over and break young plants. This way I'll be able to move them out of harms way when the fence comes down, and put them back when it is up again.

In front are some standard size apples I'm trialling. These will likely need re-potting every few years, but I'm figuring this will be worthwhile for the dwarfing effect on the tree and the ability to move the tree when I need to.


Raspberries also seem to like wicking buckets.


In other tree experiments, I have three plums, a damson and an apricot also in wicking buckets. They are only a year in, but are doing pretty well.


These will be able to be moved into my new and improved chicken pen when in fruit, to reduce the need to net, and be taken out again for the rest of the year.

Now you may have noticed that while I started out with buckets, I have evolved to using plastic storage basket type things.

There are a couple of reasons:
1. They are light and easy to move around, particularly because of the handles.
2. They are cheap.

An unexpected benefit has been how easy they are to label.


Now I've only been using these for a year or so, but they don't seem to have deteriorated at all in that time, so I'm going with them as my preferred bucket for now.


This is how I turn the baskets into wicking bucket.

Take your bucket. I use the large 50L ones for trees, and the smaller 20L ones for small bushes. I figure I can always pot these up if needed.



Cut your water hole. I basically stick a pair of scissors in about 7-8cms above the base of the bucket and then twist it around to create a 1cm hole.


Et voila.


Then I fill the bucket with potting mix, planting whatever I'm growin in as close to the top of the bucket as I can.


This ensures the plant has plenty of room to grow roots above the water reservoir, so it is unlikely to drown from too much water.

Yesterday I potted up two avocados and three gooseberries as the next experiment in wicking buckets.



It will be interesting to see how they go.

Do you grow bushes / trees in wicking containers? If so I'd love to hear your experiences.

Visiting Annie Smithers' garden...

12 May, 2015

I love checking out other people's gardens. Mainly I check them out on other people's blogs, but occasionally I get a chance to see them in the flesh.

Most recently I visited the garden of Annie Smithers as part of a garden tour. Some of you may know of Annie (I feel like I can call her Annie, as she was so friendly and welcoming to all of us who attended) who is a chef who runs a restaurant du Fermier which is well known in the home garden land as a restaurant which is big on local food and reducing food miles, as well as the obvious things like flavour and food sustainability.

One of their strategies in ensuring the kitchen runs mainly with local food is to grow it themselves. In Annie's backyard.

As part of the Daylesford Macedon Harvest Festival Annie and her gardener (for the life of me I can't remember her name and for that am deeply apologetic) opened their garden for a walk-around-and-chat style tour, as well as a delicious morning tea and lunch. Despite the grey skies and threatening clouds it was a great experience.

Annie lives on a 1 acre (or maybe slightly more, I can't recall exactly) block in a town "just up the road" from the Kyneton restaurant. In her backyard is the main veg garden for the restaurant. It amazing supplies most of the produce for 200 or so meals a week.

From this relatively small plot comes such abundance.


I love how the veg patch is firmly in the home garden realm, with other properties dotted around. It really feels like a home garden, despite its big outputs.

I also loved the focus on food quality. Much of the discussion was around which varieties of veg were especially worth growing for their flavour.

I got so many useful tips.

Plant Brussels sprouts seed in October and plant out 6 weeks later for bountiful harvests like this.


Don't prune the ends of brambles in their active new growth stage, as this promotes lateral growths and fruit production.

Just think, this small space produced enough berries for over 300 summer puddings. Mmm, summer pudding...

There was some clever interplanting in the rows, to maximise harvests.


There was also a extended perennial patch with asparagus, artichokes and berry and bush fruits including strawberries and currants.

The beautiful golden foliage of asparagus.

But it wasn't just about the veg. There was many a fruit tree on the property, with a dedicated orchard type space with underplantings, and other trees dotted around the perimeter of the veg patch.


I'm glad I'm not the only one who chooses apple varieties by name alone.

Not only culinary apples were included, but also some beautiful crab apples for the making of preserves and jellies.


The pears and stone fruit around the outside of the veg patch are guarded by geese. I love the Sebastopol's.


I think I love the mixed breed one most of all.

Not suprisingly there are also chickens, and a beehive.

This goose seems to like the chicken's company best.

Overall it was a lovely experience to check out what can be done in a larger space. Thanks for the many garden tips, the ideas and the lovely food.





Yes, you can transplant carrots!...

07 May, 2015

One of many gardening falsehoods I remember disbunking in the early days of my gardening adventures was that you cannot transplant carrots.

Carrots were one of the first things I grew from seed. I planted the seeds much too thickly, so when they all came up I realised I would need to give them some space. But it seemed such a waste to just chuck those little plants in the compost. So I unknowingly replanted them. They grew just fine. It was only later that I read you should never transplant carrots. Apparently they dont like it. I wonder if anyone asked the carrots, as the ones I was growing didn't seem to mind in the least.

Ever since then I've always replanted my carrot thinnings.

(On another note, I've also ever since always questioned the gardening 'rules'. But that is another story.)

This is my tried and tested method.

Take your overplanted carrots.


These were from an early feb sowing of carrots and radishes. Rocket self sows with gusto in this bed.


Firstly I set about pulling out all the mostly overgrown radishes, rocket and weeds. Luckily there were still some crop worthy radishes in the bunch.


This gave a nice harvest of radishes and rocket, with a whole bunch of radish greens and weeds for the chooks.


I was left with purely carrots. Look at how close those carrots are.


I then thinned the carrots to around 10cms apart, trying to leave the strongest growing carrots and pulling up the rest while disturbing the remaining carrots the least.

This gave me quite a few carrot seedlings. I find the best size for replanting is not too small and not too big. Under half a centimetre at the widest and less than 10cms long.

Carrot on left is perfect size. Others are too big, sadly.

Take your nicely thinned carrots and find a space.


I use the long bid of a broken handle-less hoi mi to poke my carrot hole in the soil, but a dibber would work just fine.


You need to create a nice deep hole for the carrot seedling to slide into, so make it at least 10cms deep, ideally a bit more.


I wiggle the hoi mi back and forth to make a hole.


Remove hoi mi, trying not to let soil fall in and fill the hole.

Get your carrot seedling and gently slide it into the hole.


Make sure the carrot goes in smoothly and the long root goes in nice and straight.


Pat down the soil around the carrot.


 Voila! Tis done. Repeat until you have no more space, or no more carrot seedlings. Water in well.

The transplanted carrots will look a bit droopy for a day or two, but will recover. I promise. 


Yay for neat plantings and not wasting a thing.

Garden Share Collective: May...

04 May, 2015

Welcome to this month's edition of the Garden Share Collective.


Thanks as always to Lizzie for creating the GSC.

We are well and truly sliding into winter here in Melbourne town with the beginnings of cold mornings, but also many a fine bright and sunny day to keep us from the full winter experience. Just yet.

Backyard:


Frontyard:


Planting

I've planted out my garlic, which is starting to sprout.


Also on the allium theme just this weekend I planted out the potato onions and shallots.


I'm also almost finished planting out the brassica seedlings. I've been trying to stagger these, in the hope I'll have a staggered crop. They are doing well under the netting to prevent cabbage white moth decimation.


I also planted out a white currant and red currant to replace those I lost over a late summer move and insufficient watering error.

Harvesting

The eggplants and capsicums are finishing up, but still have some produce to go.


The trombonico zucchini continues to climb and produce zukes.


I'm about to taste the first of the Pink Lady stepover apples.


Lemons are abounding and I'm thinking lemon curd dreams.


Also harvested but not pictured is lettuce, rocket, raspberries, radishes and potatoes. I am eagerly awaiting my first broccoli. I don't think it'll be that far away.

To-do:

  • Clear out summer crops of melons and plant out onion seeds (that bed gets full sun over winter so is ideal for onions).
  • Figure out how to set up stakes and string lines around my wicking beds for my growing pea plants.
  • Plant out remaining brassica seedlings.
  • Keep picking cabbage caterpillars off the established brassicas not under nets, and feed to the chickens.
  • Divide up artichoke plants before it is too late. I think there may also be some artichoke seeds germinating here which will need to be relocated. 


  • Build new chicken pen/polytunnel.
  • Move capsicum and eggplants to polytunnel when finished for overwintering.
  • Set up wires for cherry espalier.
  • Green manure beds not to be used over winter.
  • Avoid nursery's, online plant stores, seed catalogues etc at all costs, to avoid buying more plants and seeds that I can use / fit in my garden. 
How is your garden travelling?