It's gettin' hot in here...

31 December, 2015

Today in Melbourne its due to hit over 40 degrees C (around 107 Fahrenheit). Knowing from past experience that the garden does not do well on these very hot days, I was determined to protect the crop as best I could.

In preparation for the hottest months of the year I had mulched the garden well with copious amounts of lucerne mulch earlier in the week and had been deep watering once or twice a week to encourage the plants in the ground do develop deep root systems, but with our very strong Australian sun I knew that a super hot day plus a very high UV index would mean the plants were going to be scorched.

Luckily for the backyard wicking bed veg patch, I happened to have a 5m x 5m shadecloth hand, which I strung up to cover the majority of the main veg crops including corn, cucumbers, rockmelons, tomatoes, eggplants and beans.


Unfortunately this was my only proper shadecloth. What to do now? Well, use anything I could get my hands on. This mainly consisted of old sheets and tablecloths.

These were strung up over the front yard (normally planted, i.e. in the ground) tomatoes ...


... and over the cucumbers and self sown rockmelon (with extra shading on the side which gets the afternoon sun which does the most damage ...


... and over the blueberries in the fruit cage, which is looking empty because I moved most of the fruit trees in wicking buckets to the orchard ...


... while it doesn't look too shady now the trees over the fence give afternoon shade, so these should be a little more protected than in the fruit cage which gets full sun ...


... and also in the orchard the espaliered apples got the sheet treatment too ...


... as well as this apple tree here.


Hopefully this will mean relatively little sun damage. I'll check in shortly with an update on how the garden fared. For now I'm inside to sit in front of the air con for the rest of the day.

Morning meander...

20 December, 2015

In the lead up to the Christmas mayhem (if you aren't there already), and in the relative cool of the heat of these past crazy hot days, there is nothing better than a relaxing meander around the garden.

Corn is going gangbusters.

Peas climbing up the strings of the wicking bed bean teepee.

More climbing with cucumbers making their way up the 45 degree angled cucumber supports.

Wicking bed tomatoes getting the wind around string treatment.

Who's this intruder in the wicking bed? Ah well, its pretty, so it can stay (until I need the space for other plantings).

Pears looking prolific. I need to find me a partridge to add to the tree.

The cherry harvest is over, so the combined cherry and raspberry net structure has been reduced to just raspberries.




The raspberry nets are just around the back of the cherry trees now.

The extra nets have now been moved to the blackberries, which are starting to ripen.

Photo through the nets - look at all those almost berries. Birds foiled again!

Plums are starting to ripen. More nets required soon.

Tomatoes in the polytunnel have now got their string supports too.


Tomato prunings have been put into pots with compost and a water reservoir to keep them moist, and they seem to be doing ok. Yay more tomato plants!




There are baby capsicums on the polytunnel overwintered capsicums. Three years old and still producing.


Freezing raspberries...

11 December, 2015

I love my raspberries, but even I can't eat this kind of harvest every few days without getting just a little sick of it.


And knowing that in the deepest darkest depths of winter I'll be wanting raspberry goodness, when there are none to be picked, means I've been getting onto freezing much of my recent raspberry harvests.

But if you just bung a bowl of fresh raspberries in a container in the freezer, you end up with a raspberry rock. Tasty, but not that easy to grab a handful of berries to defrost for that yoghurt, or on porridge, or to add to that stewing rhubarb.

So I spread the fresh raspberries on a baking tray and put it in the freezer uncovered overnight.


Make sure they aren't touching too much.

Then the next day, take your newly frozen berries, and your storage container.


I like the plastic wrap method, as I can simply funnel the berries into my main storage ziplock bag.




The plastic wrap is not discarded, on no. It has been reused for each freezer batch and will last until the berry season is over.


So far I have about 2 kilos of delicious frozen berries, and I expect I'll be at least doubling that over the remaining harvest period.

Hopefully that stash will last me well into winter and maybe even until we start picking the first of the fresh berries next year.

Apples on the way...

06 December, 2015

One of the things I've gone a little bit mad for in the garden is apple trees. I currently have 36 espaliered apple trees in the orchard, plus 13 step over apples in the backyard, plus eight in wicking buckets, and five apples (one eating and four cider) planted in the front yard.

Which makes a grand total of 62 apple trees on my suburban 750 square meter block.

Now before you think I would be drowning in apples, these have been planted anywhere from 2009 to 2014, so many of them are barely out of toddlerhood and therefor not exactly producing mountains of fruit.

But every year another tree joins the fruiting list, and I get very excited.

This is what I am hoping will come to fruition in 2016.

In the orchard, one of the cordon espaliered apples to set fruit is the White Transparent, which should produce a ripe apple sometime in late January or early February.


This apple set 3 fruits, and from previous experience I should leave them for a bit to ensure they are not under ripe.

The next likely to ripen, and also in the orchard, is the Devonshire Quarrendon.


This has never fruited before, and this year set just one apple to taunt me. I hope I get the picking timing right. Expect further reports around Feb to March.

A little further along the next row are the side by side St Edmund's Pippin and Ribston Pippin.



There are four SEP's and two RPs. I've eaten the former before (mid March), but the latter is a new one for this year.

Still in the orchard, slightly further along and also new for 2016 is the Red Cleopatra.


This apple has set two fruit which I will be very excited to try. I am expecting these around April.

Sadly that is all of the cordon espaliers that set fruit. Most of the others produced flowers and set baby fruit, but many of these dropped early in the very hot weather of October. I hope this won't be a recurring event.

Luckily, things are looking up with the KNNN espaliered apples. The Sundowner apple is absolutely loaded.


Previously I had thinned the fruit to try and stop a biannual production, but it didn't work. So this year I'm going to let the plant make its own decisions and leave all the fruit and see what I get.

Also in the same space, despite the same conditions and identical (to my eyes) flowering levels, both the Grand Duke Constantine and Fuji have each set one apple.



Ah well, one is better than nothing.

In the backyard the stepover apples are looking ok, with a few fruits set.

I can see two Pink Lady stepover apples.


And one Woodbridge Winter Pippin stepover apple.


Now these were moved recently when I adapted the backyard from a mixed ornamental/edible planting to housing the wicking beds, so I'm pleased they set and didn't drop even these few fruits.

But in very exciting news, the only stepover apple which I didn't move is absolutely loaded with fruit. I actually have not grown this one as a standard stepover apple (i.e. espaliered over a low wire, usually as a border plant), but have let it grow naturally into a little tree as an experiment. It is around three years old and is now not quite two meters tall.


This is just one loaded branch. It all up has 23 apples on it, which for a first fruiting is pretty impressive. I'm sure I'll need to give these young branches some much needed support while the apples grow, so I get each and every one of those apples.

I've not yet eaten Woodbridge Winter Pippin, but I'm very much looking forward to it.

Around in the front yard there aren't many fruit trees, but a few that have fruit.

The Huonville Crab has set one tiny apple, which is nice as its such an ornamental, while still tasty apple.

The fruit of these are small, being a cross between a crab and an eating apple, but it has a gorgeous red flesh.

The last of the apples, and another first fruit, is one of the cider apples. The Dabinette has set quite a few fruit, which I'm pretty sure some will drop, but I'm hopeful for a proper cider apple or two for next years' cider batch.



Not that an apple or two will really make a difference to the resulting cider, but it will make me feel like we've done more of a 'proper' job.

So that's the apple round up. Hopefully I'll be able to report back in 2016 with the eating experience.