Garden Share Collective: March - Colour...

31 March, 2016

It's a bit belated, but I managed to get out into the garden to take some photos and get involved in this month's edition of the Garden Share Collective, kindly hosted by Krystie and Kate.

This is the current status of my backyard wicking beds.

This month's theme is colour, and I feel a bit sad that this wasn't a little earlier in the year as it feels like the peak of summer was when the blaze of colour in the garden was at it's peak.

But still, there are splashes of colour in the food garden to be had.

Beetroot seedlings showing their true colours.

The slightly older Golden Beetroot in the same bed show their true colours too.
I've planted out red, white and yellow stemmed silverbeet  around this self sown asian green.

A few of the cherry tomatoes are still holding on and adding a cheery colour to the garden.

Its all green in the brassica beds.

The shiny black of the skinny eggplants continues as these put on a second flush of fruit.

Moving on around the rest of the garden there are still flashes of colour to be seen.

Red red rhubarb.

I don't know what this is under the peach tree, but its pretty and prolific.

In the espalier orchard the Red Cleopatra is starting to live up to its name.

Late slown climbing beans are flowering well.

Purple King

Kentucky Wonder

Red Garnet Amaranth (a leaf type not seed type) is both pretty and delicious.

Cucumbers left to go to seed beside unripe tomatoes.

The speckled Dabinette cider apple is looking good.

I love these green squash.

The lemons are starting to look lemony.


I've got some garlic and peas to plant out this month. All my brassicas are already in, so there isn't much to do. Maybe some more lettuce seeds and parsnips.


The remains of the summer crops including tomatoes and eggplants. The capsicums in the polytunnel are still flowering and I expect there will be more fruit from those for a little while. There are baby carrots and a few summer sown beetroots left. I'm waiting eagerly for the beans. Until the greens and brassicas get bigger that's about it.

Fruit wise I'm waiting for the autumn raspberries to fruit (flowers already so not too far away!) and the mid-season apples will be picked soon. I still have a few of the Durondeau pears in the fridge.

To do:
  • Cut out all the dead tomato plants and sow green manure crops
  • Plant garlic, peas, lettuce and parsnips.
  • Keep feeding up the late season apples so they get nice and big.
  • Fully close up the polytunnel as the weather gets colder.
That seems like plenty to keep me busy. Don't forget to check out other GSC posts.

Busy, busy, busy...

23 March, 2016

Its been a long time since I last posted. I think this is the longest break I've had from posting since I started blogging way back in 2011 and it feels strange to not be writing about what's been going down in the garden.

But unfortunately, due to some family commitments, the spare time I'd usually be taking pics and writing posts has been non-existent. But tonight I actually had a few minutes to myself, and so got out into the garden to take a few pics about what I have been doing.

Time in the garden of late has been limited to scraps of time to do the most pressing tasks that really can't be put off. There are lots of flexible garden tasks, but some are demanding and if not done, mean no harvest.

Most urgent of these tasks has been the planting out of the January sown brassica seedlings.

Some of these went into two of the backyard wicking beds, which are covered by one of my fruit tree nets.

Another two lots (only one pictured below, behind the leaf amaranth) went into the front yard beds, with a bunch of compost and manure to ensure the seedlings are well fed and can grow big and strong.

As an aside, this is the first time I've grown amaranth and I'm loving it as a spinach substitute. Unfortunately the red colour fades with cooking, so you still get a green cooked leaf, but it's pretty in the garden and tasty on the plate.

Copying milkwood permaculture's shade creating trellis (which was the point of the cherry tree espalier and young grape vine to cover, but obviously beans will be a lot quicker) I late sowed climbing beans and used the same string lattice as a climbing structure.

As the seeds germinated pretty well and were starting to reach, I really needed to get the net lattice up quick smart to give them something to climb up.

They are doing well and flowering despite the heading into the autumn cooler weather, and I'm hopeful of a half decent crop.

At least the idea has been proven to work, so I think I'll be repeating this one a little earlier next year to get full use of the shade benefits for this part of the house which faces north and gets pretty warm in the peak of summer.

Another immediately if not sooner task was netting the only mid-season espaliered apple to set fruit: the Red Cleopatra.

I haphazardly slung a net over the tree, which has so far dissuaded any birds from having a go at the two apples left (there were three, but I ate one when netting it - rather tasty but I'm interested to see what a few extra weeks does to the flavour).

The thornless blackberry had been growing great guns but was growing through the net, so it clearly needed to be de-netted and tamed.

This is what it looks like now, which is a lot tidier and I can actually walk along the gravel path and not be attacked by blackberry tendrils.

I think next year I'll try a bit of shadecloth over the top of the net structure, as the top parts got sunburnt and the berries shrivelled.

Next to the blackberries shows a task yet to be done, but it getting higher on the to do list: pulling out the dead tomato plants and further tying up the remaining few that are still green, flowering and setting fruit.

Only the Gardeners Delight and Sweet Bite toms are still going, but I'm going to encourage them as long as I can.

The wicking bed tomatoes also got pulled out, but some with strong new growth got pruned back and left, to see if anything comes of them.

The eggplants in the bed seem to be slowing down, but are not dead yet. We will see if any further crops come along.

The polytunnel got a makeshift cucumber support, and the dried climbing beans from the first early sowing in the backyard wicking beds got pulled out and onto a cloth that happened to be handy then into the polytunnel to dry out for seed saving.

Speaking of seed saving, I pulled out some leek heads when I cleaned out the cucumber beds, and chucked them over a bowl to further dry out and collect the seeds.

The afore mentioned cucumbers were well and truly done, so these got pulled out. The self sown tomatoes in this bed were still very much alive, so I've further staked them to see what else we can get. I've planted bought celery and silverbeet seedlings in this bed to fill in the gaps, and tidied up the leeks that were already there.

And that's as much as I've been able to do.
Put together it seems like a fair bit, but at the time it felt like scraps of time and never enough to get done what I wanted to do. But the garden is still growing despite my lack of time and attention, and the crops from past work keep paying off with plenty of harvests and more to come.

How to grow more trees without planting more trees...

09 March, 2016

I love variety. Variety is the spice of life, and the backyard fruit patch.

I can't just grow one apple, one peach. I have (at last count) 57 varieties of apple, 8 cherries, 3 peaches, 6 plums, 2 nectarines, 1 apricot, 2 avocados, 2 oranges, 2 limes and on it goes.

But still I want more.

But I don't have space for more.

What to do? Graft.

I learnt how to bud graft stone fruit the year before last, and had some success with this method.

So much so that I was determined to do more bud grafting. But the challenge with grafting, alongside learning the technique, is access to known variety scion.

Scion is the name for bits of tree that you take from the desired variety, to then graft onto your current tree.

Different trees like (or do better) to be grafted at different times of the year. Now is the time for most stone fruit i.e. peaches, nectarines, apricots and to a lesser extent plums. Generally apples and pears (and also plums) are grafted by different methods later in the year.

So I attended the Werribee Park Heritage Orchard grafting day held earlier in February, where scion for peaches, plum and apricots from the orchards extensive collection of varieties was available for sale.

The kindly volunteers from the WPHO had big tables where all the scion was laid out, and you could chat to them about the merits of various varieties to your hearts content.

All the scion was laid out in plastic bags for your selection.

There was lots of information on type, flavour, ripening time and other useful facts.

You could choose your scion (a bargain at $3 each) and buy a rootstock tree ($15) and then either watch the experts, or take a number and get them to graft it for you.

Better service than the big green shed for sure!

Having had some success with bud grafting before, I felt confident enough to take home just the scion and one rootstock tree.

The Biggs Red May peach got grafted onto my donut peach, which is also an early peach. This should make netting and picking easy.

The O'Henry and Golden Gem are later, so these got grafted onto the bought rootstock (I had planned a double graft, so chose a rootstock plant with two good stems), which is now sitting happily in the orchard amongst the apple cordon espaliers, until I figure out where to plant it.

The Early Laxton plum is a little bit of an experiment, as bud grafting can work, but often people have more success with grafting a whole piece of scion, not just the bud, and later in the year (around June from what I hear). But they gave me the piece of scion for free, so I had a go at grafting it onto one of my wicking pot plums.

The apricots got grafted onto the rootstock of a failed apricot graft from the last grafting experiment. The rootstock had survived, so I've kept it with the intention of grafting again, and finally got around to it.

Fingers crossed these grafts take.

If you are interested in grafting, and live in or can get to Melbourne, the Werribee Park Heritage Orchard has two grafting days, the February one just gone and another in July. See here for details. See you there!