Thursday, 31 October 2013

Ladybirds, beans and feijoa flowers

Today I found the first ladybirds of the season….
 … there were just a few,  but I do expect more.   I had seen baby ladybirds on the parsley that had gone to seed a while ago  (this photograph is dated 24 October) and today there are quite a few adults.  The babies were plentiful…..
 …. and the parsely patch quite large…..
… and so I expect to find many more ladybirds in the coming days…. and no aphids.

The old snow pea plants are looking quite forlorn….
 … and I keep thinking that it will soon be time to pull them out.  However,  they are still producing at least ten pods per day…..
 … and so I leave them there and pick them daily.  Mine is not the tidy rows of weed free and well mulched, picturesque potager of the gardening books….  more like a rambling mess with edible patches that make it nearly unneccessary to visit the local farmer's market.  (I still go,  weekly, as there is always something new and interesting to try.)

The new season's beans are climbing….  and flowering….
 … they all seem to know how to find their way.   This year I have three bamboo lean-to's each with five stakes.  These are the furthest advanced….
 …. and there are several beans planted at each stake.  The seeds that I had were quite old,  and so I planted them generously.   They seem to have germinated well and I will have plenty of plants.  It will be necessary to make sure that they have enough water for the extra plants…. I hope it works.  

I have had some difficulty with beans in the past…. sickly plants and often stunted…. despite "everyone" assuring me that beans and peas are so easy to grow.  After my experience with silver beet and beetroot and their need for boron,  I began to suspect a lack of trace elements.  (The soil in Kapunda is very old and depleted.)
Since that lesson with the boron and the beetroot family,  I have tried some soluble trace element mixtures and these are good,  though not very long lasting and probably includes elements that are surplus to requirements,  especially in a copper mining area with thick layers of limestone about a metre or so under the soil.  I have also found a source of "rock dust" which is just that… crushed rock that can re-mineralise the soil.  This seems to ahve solved my problem…. I have been inundated with peas (snow peas and pod peas) this year and I can't wait to see how the beans manage with the new minerals around their roots.

In other news,  the feijoa (pineapple guava) is flowering….
…  the flowers are lovely.  This poor plant has survived about 10 years of competition from a giant buddleia that had taken over that part of the garden.  That buddleia had also taken over half of the clothes line and much of three garden beds.  I know that the butterflies and honey eaters loved it and I have planted a substitute,  and so the giant buddleia is gone (it has made marvelous kindling and firewood) and the surrounding garden has "taken off".   The feijoa flowered last year,  though jsut a few flowers and no fruit appeared.  This year is is covered in these lovely flowers and who knows…. there might be some pineapple guavas in the future.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Herbs

Time has managed to get away again...  but never mind.  It is that time of the year when there is plenty to do in the garden.  I am still picking snow peas, ordinary peas, beetroot, leafy greens, broccoli,  cauliflowers, the last cabbage, broad beans,  lettuce, onions and potatoes...  and probably more.  I am freezing a few vegetables ready for the middle of summer.  Last year the temperatures reached more than 50C and it was very hard to keep many plants alive and so there was less and less from the ever reducing garden patch as the summer went on.  I am blanching and freezing anything that I don't use on the very same day.  I used to bottle (can) the excess,  but that is harder to manage daily....  whereas freezing can be done with small or large amounts while the stove is hot and the freezer is cold.

Most of the "herb" plants are flowering.  They are mostly spring flowering whether they are annuals or perennials.  The most obvious are these....  the parsley...
.... last year I found white spiders on these flowers... but so far I haven't found them this year.  Perhaps it is a little early.  The link above is to a November post.
 
 This year the sage flowers on several different plants are spectacular.....
.....  borage... all self-sown....
 and coriander....
 I have heard a lot of complaints about coriander "going to seed" very quickly, and it does always in the summer.  I think it has something to do with the longer days.  I am now planting a new patch every couple of weeks.... there are now four or five patches in various spots.  I leave it to pro-create when the flowers come.

Coriander flowers attract hover flies and hover flies are pollinators, but also prey on aphids, caterpillars and some other insects (I haven't seen any aphids in weeks...  even on the rose bushes that they love.)  Once the flowers finish,  the plants produce huge amounts of seeds.

Ground coriander seeds are a significant component of the curry powder that I make,  and I save plenty of the seeds for re-planting.  During the winter,  I plant them less often,  but in recent weeks,  I plant coriander about every second weekend. The next crop but one is at this stage....
... and I have today planted some more seeds around the beans that are just beginning to climb up their tee-pee.  I don't know how the beans and coriander get on,  but with coriander attracting beneficial insect in other parts of the garden,  I'll be watching.

The rosemary has finished flowering now... and there is amazing new growth from the places where I have trimmed it back....
 ... the new growth is soft and less woody than the older parts of the plants and are much more useful in cooking... except where one wants to use them as skewers for grilling pieces of meat.

In other news,  I have moved the bird bath.  It is now beside the aloe plant that grows near the verandah...  at the "top end" of the "great wall of Kapunda"....
As I sat (reading my book) on the verandah in the afternoon last Saturday, a black bird came down to bathe in the water.  My "hide" consisted of the back of the chair where my feet rested... and this was only a few feet away from me... ..
.... the black birds had been much more wary while feeding their babies in a nest in the aloe,  but now that the offspring have left,  they are becoming a little more "friendly" it seems.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

"Spring break"

It has been more than 3 weeks since I have posted here.  I'm calling it a "spring break" because spring has most definitely sprung while I have been busy.
Family visit, dealing with a few issues that remain from a past life  and some significant re-organising of my house have all happened and all is well.
I have a new verandah area... still needing a little work....
 but usable (some visiting family.)
 The horse-shoe pitch has been un-earthed and the "great wall of Kapunda" built....

The cabbage flowers are beautiful, the broad beans are producing (I'm freezing some) and the broccoli plants that have fed me all winter are slowing down.  Current crops that are regular over the past week or two are peas, beans, beets, snow peas, potatoes, plenty of herbs and an assortment of "leafy greens".

There have been birds nests, more black birds, sparrows and starlings (all feral) than parrots or honeyeaters, though native birds seem to be successful also.  In particular, there has always been one lovely magpie-lark (Murray magpie, pee-wee) nest in one of the trees.  This year,  there are tell-tale mud nests in two trees, so these seem to be doing well. I have heard cuckoos (Horsefield's bronze cuckoos) though can't see them... yet!.... these are so elusive.   I have also seen a white-faced heron "fishing" in my pond.... this happened at the same time last year, and so I presume it has something to do with feeding baby herons.  I am breeding the heron food!
It is very timid, hard to photograph... this was taken through my dirty kitchen window and in spite of the rose geranium in the way!

While family were visiting,  a significant amount of extra work was achieved.  Jobs that would have taken me until Christmas have been completed and I feel rather lucky to have had such a happy and productive visit.  The labyrinth is "weeded"...
... and despite a pile of rubble that is associated with the verandah modifications,  it is back in "working order".   There is just a bit more to repair when the rubble is gone.

The terraceing of the next garden area is also completed....
... once again there are a few small patches to deal with, but the major work is done and I am left with just the easy bits!  The little cottage in the background is the "grannyflat" where my mother now lives.

The front of my house is finally symetrical... sort of,  the verandah is all usable and the guttering is all directed into the tanks.  The orange coloured paint remains from the previous paint job and should be re-done during this summer....
The pathways are all raked clear and the "large, chunky" pieces of firewood (those that will not fit into the kitchen stove) are stacked by the front door and nearer to the winter fireplace.

It's been a busy break with visits, garden make-over and spring planting,  but it's been fun too....
music on the new verandah (and a fire)...
 ... lots of music...
 ....
 ....
 ....  with a goat looking over the fence...
... for the goat yard is quite close to the new living area.