Archive for the ‘Garden update’ Category

We have just had the most glorious weekend in the garden, 24 degrees and sunny, just perfect. With all the rain this winter the garden looks like the national weed collection and two whole days of weeding has not made much of a dint.

Digging in the Green Manure

We dug in the green manure (mustard) into two garden beds. This is the first time we have dug the mustard into the garden in previous years we have let the chickens on the bed to eat it down. This year we cut leaves to feed to the chickens through the winter leaving the plants to keep growing. My chickens love mustard and the way they fold a mustard leaf into a cigar as they gobble it down is extraordinary. I’m looking forward to seeing if the mustard does imporve the soil.

I hoping that the green manure will increase the water holding capacity of the soil. I plan to grow climbing beans in this bed and they seem to be very thirsty plants so this should be a good test. Apart from yummy beans the Purple King Climbing Bean is a beautiful plant the hanging dark purple beans a very ornamental.

Glowing Scarlet Broadbean Flowers.

I planted Broadbean seeds in June and they are now, four months later, about a metre tall and in fall flower. I planted a Scarlet Broadbean as well as the standard ‘Prolific’.  The Scarlet plants are slightly shorter, maybe 80cm, a very fetching in the sunlight .

A second wild swarm of bees arrived in the garden on Sunday. This swarm is still sitting under the Jasmine on the back fence in a ball about the size of an Aussie rules football (Mmmm two football finals – two swarms. Coincidence or cosmic?). There is so much swarming at the moment that there isn’t a keeper available to come and collect it. I’m not at the stage were we can collect a swarm by myself.

I will be ready next year though. I’ve read that you can add a swarm to a hive by placing the swarm into a box on top of the hive. Newspaper is used to separate the two colonies. The bees then eat through the paper towards each other, by the time they meet, they recognise each other as the same colony due to the intermingling of pheromones. This seems to be a quick way to build a hive – well lets wait and see.

Next task is to germinate more seeds!


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30 January 2010 - Harvest


We are enjoying a mild January in Melbourne, Australia.  Some rain and only a few days over 40 degrees.

This post is an update on progress in the vegetable garden. As usual there have been some spectacular failures and some minor successes.

This photo shows todays harvest:

One zucchini that hid long enough to become a marrow. I can’t account for it but the zucchini plants have hardly produced at all this year.  The plants look great and are flowering but not setting fruit?

Two Pumpkin Delicata.  For the first time ever this lovely little pumpkin plant has produced fruit.  It seems to like the spot in which it was grown this year in a bed that has sun in the morning but shade in the heat of the day.

PakchoiPakchoi is doing really well this year and is now ready to harvest.  The one that I picked today was full of white cabbage moth eggs so there will be a race between us and the grubs to eat them first.  Tomorrow is forecast to be a hot day if the predicted cool change hits in the afternoon I will spray the inside of the pakchoi with molasses diluted in water. Don’t know why but grubs hate this and it is an effective control so long as you remember to reapply after rain.

The bean trellis in this photo should be covered in Ceylon Spinach by now. Not a one has turned up.  Next year I will start the seeds in jiffy pots and plant them out as seedlings.

Tomatoes have put in a patchy performance this summer.  Cherry Bite, Beef Steak and Green Zebra have all fruited very well. Roma tomatoes planted in the same bed as the others have all come down with Blossom End Rot.  Blossom End Rot is usually caused by uneven watering or a lack of calcium.  I’ve added extra Blood and Bone to this bed so I’m hoping that subsequent Romas will be OK.  Very puzzling!


Nessa and Kenso


Our two little Buffy Pekin chicks are growing very quickly.  They are now five weeks old and covered in white feathers apart from their baby yellow fluffy heads.

They are now eating half crumble and half growing crumb as well as pecking over scraps with their mum. Melon skins and fruit is a early favorite.

Unfortunately we are not able to keep roosters in suburban Melbourne so when Kenso is three months old he will need to return to the farm (very sad he is such a feisty little chap).

Most of February will focus on keeping the garden watered and planning winter crops.  

Waiting for February heat.


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First bean harvest

Beans are really performing well this year.  Green beans from ‘Pioneer Bush Beans’ and lovely purple beans ‘Purple King’.  Radishes are very slow – pictured above is a young ‘French Breakfast’.

Having a new tomato problem this year.  Cherry tomatoes are growing well but ‘Beef steak’ and Roma are developing horrible black rot inside as they grow.

Rotting tomatoes?

Looking through gardening books and the web suggests this might be a lack of calcium in the soil?  I’m surprised as I fertilised this bed with Cow Poo which should be high in calcium?  Tomorrow morning I’m going to add more ‘Blood and Bone’ to soil and water in with seaweed tea.

If it is a calcium deficiency then the next lot of tomatoes should be OK.  I hate to complain but I really feel that it is time for a good tomato year – sigh.

Recommended listening for gardening this week.  Two fabulous interviews by Phillip Adams on Gardening.

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Logan Berries

This week the first Logan Berries have ripened.  I’ve been able to pick them as they turn the colour of deep agate and before the birds have found them. Extremely yummy popped into my mouth warm from the vine – a gardeners perk.  I took this photo after admiring how they gleam in the sun-light – then I ate them, hehe.

Snow in Summer - it must be nearly Christmas.

I love the gigantic Paper Bark out the front yard- a very grand Melaleuca linariifolia. At this time of the year it is covered in fluffy white snow flake shaped blossoms – which provide its common name ‘Snow in Summer’. To me it means Christmas and that our first tomatoes are only four weeks away. The tree is covered in bees humming up a real buzz.  Bring on the tomatoes I say…

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Interesting climatic weekend in Australia.  Here in Melbourne where I live we enjoyed 35 to 70 mil of rain in 48 hours – that is the whole of one months rain in 48 hours.  In Sydney, by contrast, they had the first Extreme Fire Danger Day yesterday with temperatures over 40 degrees celsius and 100 separate wildfire outbreaks.  This unpredictability is problematic from a gardeners point of view.

This time last year there was very little rain and I had already put mulch on the vegetable garden.  You might remember that I lost most of my bean seedlings to ‘ring-barking’ by Slaters (Wood Lice, Butcher Boys, Pill Bugs see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_lice ).  The most interesting thing about Slaters is that they are a land living crustacean – that’s right tiny lobsters.  Slaters breath through gills which means they need to hang out in damp pockets in the garden in order to get the oxygen they need via water.  You would think that since we have been in drought for 10 years that Slater would be on the decline.  Unfortunately these introduced garden pests are on the increase.  I’ve heard speculation that our relatively new practice of mulching garden beds in Australian has created the ideal habitats for them to survive and thrive.

This year I am holding off on the mulching until the weather is really unforgivably hot and dry.  This should allow the soil to warm up, the plants to send their roots deeper into the beds and discourage the Slater population. I will report on how this experiment works.  So far so good.  You can see from the photo that I have both Bush Beans and Purple King Climbing Beans growing well.

Undressed Bean Bed

Another advantage of  ‘not mulching yet’ is that this weekends soaking rains went right into the soil rather than wetting the mulch and not reaching the roots.  I know this is all quiet heretical in gardening circles but gardening in the elemental extremes is going to need some experimentation to get it right – I’m hoping that by allowing my plants to send their roots down deep they will perform and survive much better once the big hot dry arrives.  The proof will be in the eatting.

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On one level I understand that gardens are about change.  On another level it is taking me a bit to come to terms with removing the large Brazilian vine this week.  Our neighbour has requested that we remove it as it is breaking up our shared fence and threatening to overwhelm her garden – fair enough.

I have however become very fond of this really too enormous member of the backyard farm – not because it produces anything edible – but because of the enormous number of parrots that hang out in the vine at this time of the year.  The bees will also miss such a splendid and close source of pollen.


The death of a giant.

The death of a giant.


The current plan is to remove all of the vine and as much of the root as possible and then plant fruit trees along the fence line – which is a very cunning plan.  Cirtus trees seem to do well on these sandy soils so I’m going to investigate espaliered orange trees.  Our Desert Blood Lime (an Australian Native grafted onto european rootstock) has graciously pumped out one lime this winter – wow – clearly I am supernaturally talented with the citrus!


Desert Blood Lime

Desert Blood Lime


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Hi again, for a number of reasons I stopped blogging at the end of last summer:

  • after my last post the temperatures here soared to the mid 40’s and the bush in my state exploded in to a fiery inferno
  • the vegetable garden was absolutely fried, desiccated, dead as a do do with in hours
  • the chicken only just made it through with lots of TLC and ice-blocks in their nest, paddling pool and drinking water.

I think in the end I felt that growing vegetables at home in this new climate was going to be impossibly impractical so I’ve not planted the garden this winter – glum, glum, hoe, hum.

So it’s imbolc this sunday – and as this blog has no readership  – it feels a little bit like casting thoughts out into the great beyond.  I thought I would work on sparking the garden up again for spring and tracking the garden progress as it goes.

They have said that this coming summer is likely to be ‘the worst fire storm ever’ – so I guess it’s time to figure out how to garden in the fire flume.

Merry Meet all and happy first stirrings of spring!  PS the bees are doing really fab – first honey is a month away.

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