Harvest Monday...

24 January, 2016

It's been a while since I joined in a Harvest Monday.

I've really missed these, but am determined that this year I will post for Harvest Monday at least once a month. As the internet is my witness.

So, straight to it. This is pretty indicative of current garden harvests.

The cucumbers (varieties Mini White and Spacemaster) are prolific, as are the Anzac peaches. The beans (climbing Purple King) and the zucchini are providing reliable pickings. This is the first picking of Ziegler plums, and they are a little underripe but I just couldn't hold of any longer. It's been 10 months since I ate one and I was a little impatient. I pulled up these few onions and the carrot when cleaning out a bed for sowing more beans, so they are a bit unintended by no less welcome.

Not shown are the odd few tomatoes (they are very slow this year and I've only picked a few where usually by now I'd be drowning in them), lettuce leaves, eggplants, blackberries and capsicums.

Don't forget to check out other worldwide harvests.

The best way to grow cucumbers...

I have been a fan of the following method of growing cucumbers for the last couple of seasons.

Growing cucumbers along the ground means that finding the cucumbers amongst the spreading foliage is a bugger. Growing cucumbers straight up a vertical frame I find they don't grow all that well, requiring a lot of training and the weight of the fruits can mean the whole lot comes tumbling down.

But the best way is half way in between.

This involves a trellise on a 45 degree angle from where the cucumber plants are growing.

My current system is wooden lattices for the angled supports. One was slightly too short for the bed so I used a bit of plastic lattice to extend the support.

I've tied these to plastic stakes to support them. (The ones on the end.)

I found the plants and lattice were too heavy and needed a little extra support to stop sliding down the main stakes, so smaller stakes underneath help keep it up nice and tall. (The ones in on the left.)

The main plastic stakes are outside the bed to ensure they don't pierce the bottom of my wicking beds.

This 45 degree angle means the plants can ramble up nicely, but that the fruits mostly hand down in the lattice gaps which makes for very easy pickings.

'Mini white' cucumbers, which I've grown before and love.

'Spacemaster' cucumbers, which don't seem to be that compact, but are fairly prolific and tasty.

I love this method of cucumber growing and can't see how it could be bettered, but that's just my bias talking.

What garden tips do you have for easy harvests?

Sowing the seeds of winter harvests...

19 January, 2016

In the peak of summer its easy to get distracted by the lush plants and plentiful produce. After all, you have cucumbers, tomatoes and beans coming out of your ears (or so it feels when every day you pick yet ANOTHER at least five cucumbers, couple of handfuls of beans and multitude of tomatoes and wonder what in gods name you are going to do with them all), the corn is almost ready for harvest, the blackberries and peaches are coming thick and fast and altogether it seems too much to handle.

But don't let yourself be distracted. Now is the time to plant your seeds for winter harvests.

Yes, now.

The only year I had a good harvest of brassicas, particularly cauliflowers which I always find challenging to grow, was the year I sowed the seed in early January. Every other year since I've been distracted by the summer bounty and sown my brassica seeds in early Feb. Every time I've regretted it when the crops were delayed.

So this weekend just gone I got the brassica seeds out, and dutifully sowed my brassica seeds.

I planted these out in a variety of small tubes, with 2-4 seeds in each tube which I will prick out all but the strongest one or two seedlings.

These tubes are placed in shallow trays which when I water, the water collects in the tray and means the tubes never dry out. The water wicks up, and I top water gently, so the seeds should have plenty of moisture to germinate well.

I tie string around the tubes to stop them from falling over. Some sit well in the tubs and don't need it, but others need a little extra support. Like all of us at one time or another I guess.

In addition to my main brassica seeds, I also planted out my brussels sprouts seedlings.

Back in May last year I visited the garden of Annie Smithers. One of the many tips I picked up was that brussels spouts needs a longer growing season than most brassicas, so they sow the seed in October. Their brussels spouts plants were a sight to behold.

So back in late October I sowed brussels sprouts seeds. They grew very slowly, and only in the last few weeks have put on any decent growth. This weekend I decided they were big enough to go out into the adult plants garden, in one of the wicking beds.

Who can spot the white cabbage moth? They don't waste time do they.
When I was planting them out the white cabbage moths were already bearing down on the plants. Not wanting my plants to be munched to nothing by the voracious appetites of the white cabbage caterpillar, I quickly got out the nets.

That should stop them! Mwahahahaha!

So hopefully this will mean plentiful winter harvests. Almost as plentiful as the summer ones. Now I better go harvest those cucumbers.

Wicking beds rock!..

13 January, 2016

I love my wicking beds! Ever since I built them between November 2014 and April 2015 I have been extremely pleased with the results, however it is now in the peak of summer that I reckon I'm truly seeing their benefits.

See the below comparison between cucumbers, both from the same punned of bought seedlings (my seed sown cucumbers all died/were eaten).

First up, the wicking beds:

And now, soil planted cucumbers:
The difference is amazeballs! Both got equal treatment in planting, being planted out into soil (the wicking beds were filled with soil from my garden, so even that is the same) enriched with homemade compost and watered once or twice weekly as needed. Both get full sun throughout the day. The only difference is wicking bed vs. soil planted.
It just goes to show that particularly for water loving plants that our soil dries out way too fast, even with fairly regular watering. Keeping the water within reach of the plants makes a huge difference.
Need more proof? What about tomatoes.
Wicking bed toms:

These are at least a meter tall and laden with fruit.
Soil grown toms:
These are about 70-80cm mostly (although some are closer to a meter or a bit more - interesting how varieties are more/less tolerant to conditions) and have fruit, but a lot less than the wicking bed grown ones. I wonder if a more stable water level has allowed the wicking bed ones to grow more strongly and also set more fruit as they are not water stressed.
Overall I love my wicking beds. They are great and I only wish I had built them sooner. That said I'll still grow in the soil, but I'm thinking I'll be planting a lot more perennial plants and drought tolerant plants in the regular garden and leave the majority of the annuals to the wicking beds where I get more bang for my water buck.

Protecting the peaches...

10 January, 2016

This weekends main gardening task was netting the peach tree. The peach is a stunning white peach (variety: Anzac) so I was not in any way willing to let any of this delicious goodness go to waste.

In previous years while the tree was relatively young I had small crops and therefore I had individually netted each peach. However this year the tree is absolutely loaded with what may be hundreds of peaches, so I'm not going that route. Instead I'm netting the whole tree in my preferred whole tree netting method, which is with star pickets, stakes and polytube hoops to support the net.

See now six year old peach tree. It is probably about 4m tall and 3m wide.

First step before netting was actually to cross brace the branches, as given the mass of peaches the branches were getting very weighed down. Now it was either thin peaches or brace to ensure the peach limbs, which are notoriously brittle and break easily when heavily loaded, don't break. In the interests of my stomach I went with the brace option.

I used regular garden string to tie the opposite branches in the trees Y shape to each other, keeping the branches more upright and hopefully preventing any from breaking. Fingers crossed!

Then the net supports went up.

I went with short 80cm star pickets hammered securely into the ground, to which I tied 1.8m green plastic stakes. The polytube arches then go over the top of the green stakes. I went with 6 stakes and 3 arches to give a full round shape to ensure no net sag.

Then the fun and games of trying to get the net over the structure began. I would have preferred to use a large 10m x 10m net, but I could only get my hands on a 10m x 4m net, so instead of pulling it over I needed to wrap the net around the stakes and tie together at the top. Needless to say it was a bit of a palaver, but its done now so I'm happy.

A small tweak to my usual system to hold the ends down with bricks, is that instead this time I tied the net up under the tree, all the way to around the tree trunk. This will ensure that any super ripe peaches that drop from the tree will be gently caught in the net and hopefully mean less wastage.

Unfortunately there were some casualties of the netting, with some underripe peaches being knocked off as I was wrenching the nets over the tree.

(Gah, how did my shadow end up in the pic!)

Luckily these are just ripe enough for eating, and I'm hoping will ripen a little more off the tree to whet my appetite for the read deal. Because a tree ripened peach is a wonderful thing. And I can't wait to taste it again.

Shadecloth success...

03 January, 2016

Well, the shade covers are off and it's time to check how the garden did through the 40.3 degrees C of a couple of days ago.

The backyard wicking bed veg patch looks absolutely fine.

They look as if there was no unusual weather whatsoever, just lovely mild summer days. I was thinking that maybe my shadecloth was a little overprotective of me, maybe the garden didn't need it. But then I walked a bit further around to the unprotected stepover apples and saw this.

They were just a little scorched on the side that gets the strong late afternoon sun, and which the veg patch beds get plenty of. Which reinforces for me the need for protection for the veg patch area.

Around in the front yard it is much the same story.

Covers off, and the cucumbers and melons look completely normal.

Likewise the tomatoes.

And yet, look what happened to the smoke bush just meters away.

The western side again is a little crisp on the softer, newer leaves.

It's very clear that some areas of the garden and plants are more susceptible to this late afternoon very strong sun on these hotter days. I'll have to look into adjusting some planting and maybe some more sun tolerant plants that will be able to shade the more susceptible stuff in the garden from the worst of the hot weather.

But for now, there is still plenty of produce. Yay for not sunburnt fruit and vegies.