Friday, 31 May 2013

Rain

It is the very end of the month, and so today's rain will show up on the June rainfall total,  but even by 9 am this morning we had had 4.5 mm in the last 24 hours and this makes a total of 49 mm for the month of May, not bad for this time of the year!
It is amazing to see how the plants respond to rain.

I have been out to collect some food for dinner (between showers) and the garden is looking good.  It doesn't seem to matter how much water one pours onto the plants,  rain is just so much better.  I picked a cabbage.....

 ... with just a few "catterpillar bites" and it should be good for dinner.

The first cauliflower is growing fast also....
 ... the clothes peg is to keep the white part sheltered from the sun... to prevent it becoming yellow.  The sun has yet to make an appearance today,  but you never know.

Broccoli....
 .... sprinkled with rain!

The whole yard is looking greener by the day....
 .... and the pathways are covered with weeds....
 I hope that the mower will fit along most of the tracks so that I can trim the weeds on the next sunny day.

Meanwhile the first of the broad beans are out of the ground....
... I planted them a little later than usual this year because the soil was so dry and the weather so hot until the end of April and beyond.   They are just beginning to emerge now.
I have also planted some special ones that a friend ahs given me.  Those are in a different part of the garden,  and should be pushed along by this rain.  I will keep and eye out for them.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Salvia flowers

Salvias are some of my favourite plants.  Mint (of the mint sauce variety also known as  Salvia officinalis) is a plant of the "salvia family" and many salvias have aromatic leaves.

At this time of the year,  the salvias are flowering again...  this is a hybrid red sage that has "minty smelling" leaves....  it is not as hardy as some,  but this plant seems to be doing ok.

This is another hybrid salvia called "African skies"...  (I also have "Greek skies" and I'll make a picture of it when it flowers.)

This sage is a native of South Africa....  Salvia chamelaeagnea... with tangy aromatic leaves...


Mexican sage.... Salvia leucantha...


Salvia recognita... from Turkey.  This sage has leaves that smell similar to clary sage,  and, though the leaves of each have a similar texture and both are hairy the leaves of this species are much smaller.  The flowers are similar as well.
I like the smell of the leaves,  though many people do not.

I used to grow clary sage (Salvia sclarea) every year,  but it is an annual or biennial.  I used to save the seed and replant it each year.  Since finding Salvia recognita,  I have become lazy as this is a perennial and very hardy plant.  I should grow clary sage again,  it is no more difficult than growing borage.  In fact,   there are a number of borage plants coming up (self seeded) all over the place after the little bit of rain.

My Salvia somaliensis (from Somalia) has died back and I am not hopeful that it will recover.  This hot dry summer has been very hard on some plants and even some salvias have not survived.

I have other salvias that are not flowering yet.  I'll photograph them when they do.


Winter is here....

... and with winter, come the winter vegetables and those are looking pretty good.  The lack of rain is still a serious problem.  We have had about 12 mm over the past week,  and the farmers' paddocks are looking green,  the weeds are germinating but the vegetables that I haven't watered for two or three days are looking wilted...
... this is how the broccoli looks after a morning of sunshine.  In fact,  the plants will be ok,  and they will produce a good crop,  despite their pitiful wilting behaviour in the sun.  There is a real lack of moisture in the soil after so little rain for so long.

This week,  I finally planted the broad beans.  I had waited for the rain... and of course we did get the 12 mm over four days,  but I've watered the seeds in well and I hope that there will be more real rain to come.
The onion patch is ok... I have been watering that and the garlic consistently as well.  The onions are loooking healthy enough...
 ... but while I was photographing the onion patch,  I noticed two broad bean plants sprouting from the mulch...  seeds that escaped when I was collecting them at the end of last year. 

Despite being "watered" when I grew corn on that patch during the hot weather,  those broad bean seeds didn't germinate until the right time (around Anzac day, April 25th) and how they know what to do is amazing.

The "lost potatoes" are growing also...  in two garden beds....
 ... and among those are some "field peas" that have grown from the pea straw that I used to protect the soil during the summer.  These have germinated when I watered the potatoes.   The flowers are beautiful.
 I know of people who don't use pea straw "because of the weeding"... they remove all of these little plants that grow from the peas included in the straw  (at least, those that the crested pigeons don't get) whereas peas are only likely to add nitrogen that they are able to fix (as do other legumes) and when they eventually produce pods,  the peas are perfectly edible...  free food!  They are small and sweet,  and taste exactly the same as the ones that are grown for people to eat.  I don't know why pea straw is such a problem.

The wilting broccoli (shown above) is beginning to produce smallish heads.  I'll let them go for a while as long as they don't get "loose" and soft.

The chinese stir-fry makings are looking good....

... and then I went to check on my cabbages and this one looks a little worse for wear....
... there is tell-tale caterpillar poo....
 .... and then I found the culprit.  (The chickens loved him/her.)
 The rest of the cabbage will be fine.  In fact,  I'd rather eat a cabbage that doesn't kill its predator than one that does.

Tiny cauliflowers are beginning to form.....  I'll "clothes-peg" the leaves over the florets soon,  to keep them white and sweet.

Currently,  along with silver beet and winter lettuce,  the leaves that I am eating are mainly herbs... lots of parsley....
 It's easy to see why tabbouleh would have been a common in middle eastern countries.... parsley (and a number of other herbs) easily self-sow and are available very early in the growing season despite very little water.  From Wikipedia:  "To the Arabs, edible herbs known as qaḍb, formed an essential part of their diet in the Middle Ages, and dishes like tabbouleh attest to their continued popularity in Middle Eastern cuisine today."
The parsley is still producing seed and no doubt these will produce my "mostly leaves" food next year.

I cut the seed heads off and put them in other parts of the garden...  In fact,  I do the same with coriander as well.  It means that I end up with plenty of "greens" to add to whatever else I am eating.
Last night, for dinner,  I had potatoes, beetroot, parsley and silver beet fried with an onion and two eggs.   Not necessarily what you'd get in a restaurant,  but it tasted good and there were no added chemicals or caterpillars.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Vegetables, rain and a labyrinth

I continue to be a rather infrequent poster here in recent weeks.  Life has a way of interfering with one's best intentions.   However,  the garden continues to produce, despite my ignoring of it on some days.  Gardens, luckily, can be so forgiving at times like these.
Today I collected enough for dinner for me...  potatoes, eggs, broccoli side shoots, two jalapenos, a few black capsicums (these are from a recent flowering, quite late in the season) and the last red onion from the last crop.    It looks like some kind of frittata or potato gnocchi with a vegetable sauce.... to be decided.  (All of this is from the garden this afternoon.)  The eggs are from my new pullets and I am now getting four a day of quite small eggs... any that are noticeabky bigger have two yolks.  It seems that I've always had that when they are still "learners".

The serious lack of rain is becoming an issue.   Farmers around here are dry sowing seed in anticipation of rain that has so far been pretty scarce.  We have had rain on only 10 or 12 days so far this year,  for a total of about 60 mm so far (8.5 mm in the last few days.)  Even this tiny bit of rain has allowed green shoots (weeds!) to pop through all over the place.

 I have planted a few of my regular winter vegetable crops,  though not in the amounts that I would have in other years...  it may turn out to be to hard to maintain the water supply to them.  I usually plant my broad beans around Anzac day (April 25th) but this year the weather was far too "summery" then and germination might have been rather haphazard (temperature and water problems) and so I postponed that for a few weeks.  With the little bit of rain over the past couple of days,  it might well be just the time to plant them this week.
So far, the healthiest crops seem to be the garlic and onions and the transplanted brassicas in the small (summer) garden which is always the priority when watering is needed.

I have had another tank delivered, and it will soon be "hooked up" to the house supply, giving me a regular 18,000 litres for inside use.  Now that the tank has been moved,  I can continue with the labyrinth installation.
The part around the other side is more or less completed with rocks, except for the part near the stobie pole...  I need to move some soil for that spot.
The side closest in the photograph is marked with a few stones and I can now walk right around the pathway and it is quite long.  I like it very much.  There is an old mulberry tree in the middle, well pruned and loved by birds,  and somehow the thought of going round and round the mulberry bush seem quite appropriate.  The friendly graffiti on the shed and the fence actually add to my pleasure... they are done by several of my children.  More to go....  progressing slowly but surely.



Friday, 3 May 2013

Wattle

It seems early,  but the wattle is flowering...
 ... it must believe that the tiny bit of rain that we've had means winter.

... and where the silver beet grew large and flowered last season,  the new season's crop, self sown, are coming through the straw that I used to protect the dry soil during the baking days of summer....


And still they come....
... potatoes and garlic that I missed when collecting the harvest last time....  not to mention the self seeded coriander that is everywhere.