Friday, 22 May 2015

Cold weather vegetables.

It is the time of the year when I have the last of the 'summer' crops and the newly planted 'winter ' crops  are coming along nicely.  New plantings are broad beans, brassicas, potatoes, garlic and a few leeks and onions.  There are some plants that continue to produce for a very long time though…  this clump of 'green leafy vegetables are more than a year old….
 I have been cutting these (broccoli on the left, and kale on the right) for all of that time.  I have also reduced the number of plants gradually also.  The kale is still good,  though the leaves are not as large as the original ones,  but just as tasty….
… and the broccoli is, by now, made up of smaller pieces on the right hand side of the collection (today's dinner) below….

The next broccoli is already looking good and once this is cut,  I will let the side shoots grow on as well.
After that,  the next ones are coming along nicely too.  It will soon be truly 'broccoli season'.  There are a few even smaller plants.
Once these are all producing well,  those old plants above can be fed to the chickens.

I have a few self sown lettuce seedlings as well.  They are not in neat rows,  but I'll leave them alone and  I'll plant a few extras in between.  I had some come up in a pot that happened to be nearby, and those can fill in the gaps.

The broad bean plants have germinated and are looking healthy.  That will be quite a wait, though the young leaves are edible also and once the plants are bigger,  they can go into stir-fried dinners or soups.

After a break, when the parsley was rather scrawny (in the really hot weather) it is now back to full production….
….enough for regular tabouli mixes.

I have forgotten to plant more coriander. I have some that is self sown,  but I'll need to put some seeds in a few other places.  I have a shady spot that I will plant some in order to see whether it lakes a little longer to 'go to seed' there…. in fact I have plenty of coriander seed saved from last year and so I'll try a few different 'micro-climates' to see which makes the coriander easier to grow.  I like coriander.

I have carrot seedlings that have germinated also… they are still tiny and, being slow growing, they are some way off yet.  I like carrots.

Gardening is a constant experiment.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Broccoli, new and old.

Today is sunshiny and pleasant for working in the garden.  I have been out weeding, harvesting and looking carefully at what is happening.  I have found five eggplant fruits that I hadn't expected, and I picked the broccoli and zucchinis, collected the eggs and began to think about what might be for dinner tonight… some variation on pasta primavera?
These are the last, surely of the brocoli to be collected from these plants. These plants are now about a year old and still producing enough broccoli for me to eat a couple of times each week.
The plants do not look particularly elegant any more. I have picked, pruned and fed the excess leaves to the chickens and they are still producing enough for me to feast on every few days….

 Actually,  these plants look pretty ordinary, unlike the new ones that will soon take over their duties….
… this is the first of the 'new crop' which should be ready very soon.  I'll cut the large top for a feast one of these days,  but then leave the plant to continue production for another year or so.
Broccoli has to be one of the most productive and valuable green vegetables.

I don't use any pesticides on these.  The few caterpillars that I don't find (they are easy to track down from the holes that they leave in the green leafy parts of the plant) are removed as I harvest the florets and are delivered, with the discarded leaves, to my chickens.


The autumn has been cold,  but at least we have had rain… 25mm (about an inch) so far this month.  Now is a busy time.  While the soil is still warm and the rain has come,  it is time to plant seeds and to transplant seedlings into the garden.
The weeds are also doing well….  watsonia is growing nicely and the sour sobs have taken over the front yard….
 …. they do have lovely leaves.  When they flower,  it will be spectacular.  I don't think that there is any way to 'win' against these naturalised invaders.

The seeds and plants are doing well…. broad beans are up….
 … garlic has sprouted….
 … the winter lettuces are looking healthy….
 … and amid the last of the summer crops,  I found four remaining eggplants.  After the last big one that I found a couple of weeks ago,  thinking that it would be the last,  these are quite a surprise…
There are four left altogether.   They are not huge,  but all medium size and looking healthy.

I have transplanted some brassicas and some snowpeas and a few of the carrots (seeds) have come up…. all are looking healthy.  The pest insects seem to be deterred by the clear, cold nights.  

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Overflowing tanks

The weather has suddenly turned quite cold, and this week we have had some rain as well.  It feels like winter.
After an unusually dry second half of last year with just over 60mm of rain for the last five months of the year,  one storm in January (the til end of a monsoon that ventured south) and almost no rain in February or March,  the prediction of a "wetter than average" quarter from April to July seems to be working out quite well.  In April, we received 62.5mm of rain and so far this month, a further 9mm so that the garden and its weeds are doing well and the tanks are full to overflowing and showers are happily as long as one would like.
I haven't added any pictures of vegetables lately,  but I am still picking the last of the summer production...
I had thought that this really was the last eggplant, but as I poked around to disconnect it from the plant,  I found FOUR more…. still smallish, but growing.  The garden still provides me with most of my food, though the fruit trees (my plan is to have espaliered trees along the fence) are still too small to produce as yet…  quite a bit more work to do there before next summer.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Autumn is here

Once again,  I have been dealing with other people's issues instead of writing my blog.  The garden hasn't suffered though.  Autumn, and increased rain has made it possible to plant more vegetables.

I am still picking kale, zucchini, broccoli side shoots, herbs and the chickens are still laying… I am eating well.  As I have mentioned previously, it's necessary to plant something every week at least if you want to eat from the garden and so  I have continued to eat well and extremely locally.

The summer that has just finished was very difficult here because of the almost complete lack of rain.  The six months from July 2014 has been exceptionally dry.  Since then,  despite plenty of rain in the eastern states,  we have had very little…  though enough to make a significant difference to my rainwater tanks, to reduce the amount of watering needed and to finally allow planting of new seeds and seedlings.

The new season is beginning.   So far, I have transplanted kale, snow peas, cabbage and cauliflowers, I have moved a few self-sown lettuces and silver beet plants and I have sown (as seed) carrots, swedes, beetroot, broad beans, peas and a few herbs and I have planted about 70 garlic bulbs.  There are  also a number of healthy looking potato plants that have emerged since the rain.  I had planned to do something else with that bed this winter, but this is the patch that I harvested when the soil was wet after rain.  The soil is very heavy and clay, so when it was wet, the going was hard and a lot of potatoes were left behind as I discovered when I transplanted some onions and leeks to that area in the summer.  As soon as I had watered the transplants,  the potatoes also sprang into action and it was chaos.  Never mind.  I will have plenty of potatoes in the not too distant future.

The rain means that I can afford to cultivate a much larger area.  The straw covered patches are now cleared and well dug.  There are plenty of earth worms in every piece of earth that I turn over.

I have been reading a book called  "THE FORMATION OF VEGETABLE MOULD through the Action of Worms with Observations on their Habits"  by Charles Darwin.

 I agree with Darwin that the worms are an incredible force but I wonder how much is due to earth worms and how much is due to fungi and micro-organisms that live in the same environment.  I have been told for all of my life that earthworms are a sign of healthy soil, and I am sure that that is correct.  They are certainly indicators, but there are a lot of other organisms that live in the same conditions and contribute equally to soil health and these, along with the earthworms need to be protected from hot, dry summers. Cultivation of the soil makes the organisms more vulnerable and so providing protection during the most difficult weather conditions has become an absolute necessity… unless the soil is to be used as a support for "hydroponic" production where seed, fertiliser and chemicals are added to the substrate to enable survival, if not optimal growth, of the vegetation. This is why I cover the soil with a thick layer of straw during the hot dry months (I can't keep the whole area watered  and shaded during the summer) to maintain the environment for, not only worms, but all of those other creatures and fungi as well.

As I sit here at the computer, I can see the 'almost full moon' rising out of the window….  a new month is about to begin (full moon here will be on the 4th May)  and with it a new cycle of planting and garden planning.