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.



Mr Cornwall went out to the chickens yesterday to collected our daily egg and discovered that the chicks had already hatched.


All has gone very well – until this morning.

I was watering the garden in preparation for another scorcher when I heard alarmed chick peeps coming from the run.  Bad Aunty Chicken was standing on one chick in the middle of the run pecking at it – hence the peeps.

Needless to say we have separated Bad Aunty into her own temporary run.

Mum Chicken and both Chicks seem OK so far.

Happy New Year!

Can you see the Earwig hiding in the hole?

While watering the Garden  this morning I found another beautiful tomato with a big black hole.  Nestled inside was an Earwig and a pile of Earwig Babies.  Could it be that these rotten spots are caused by Earwig nom-age?

So in case it is – I’ve placed an Earwig trap under the tomatoes.  They are made from ‘Take-away’ plastic containers.  Make a few holes along the side with a pair of scissors then fill with vegetable oil.  Place the lid on the container and bury in the soil up to the depth of the holes.

Earwig Trap

I also topped up the ‘Slug Hotels’ with fresh beer – as they are also very handy at catching and killing Earwigs.

Beer traps - container below soil level holds beer - lid keeps rain out.

Will check traps tomorrow and see if I have caught many.

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.

Here in Melbourne we are waking up to a scorching 39 degrees (Centigrade = 102 Fahrenheit) while messages from friends in the UK and USA flood into our inboxes still coated in snow flurries.

In preparation for the sizzling weather I’ve watered the vegetable garden early, covered the chicken house in a big wet rug and placed old bed sheets over delicate younger plants.  Days like today just fry the garden.

I’ve finally mulched the garden beds with ‘Sugar Cane Mulch’ which is cheap and lasts well in the garden.  It isn’t as environmentally friendly as locally grown Pea Straw – as it travels a long way down to us from Queensland – giving it the environmental footprint of Jack B00ts.  The thing is I’ve not been able to find Pea Straw in recent months – so Cane Mulch it is.

Today I will see if leaving the mulching later this year has made the plants more resilient in the heat – fingers crossed.

In the meantime – I hope your garden is growing well and that you are looking forward to either watching your garden out the window from a warm-fire-side or like us celebrating the turn of the year from underneath a shade tree.

Merry Merry Merry All

Demelza settling in the new Potentials.

Demelza has taken on two more eggs to brood. A friend who is trying to raise two Guinea Fowl got home this evening to find that his broody had given up sitting – so he dashed the eggs over here to place under our faithful Demelza.

Tricky thing is that Buffys and Guinea Fowl have different incubation periods, GF a week longer than the Buffy so Demelza will only have to sit on four eggs until an alternative broody chicken can be found…

Our chicken Demelza has gone very broody and as luck would have it a friends at work had some spare Buffy Bantam Eggs fertilised and waiting to go into her incubator.  We have never raised chicks before so this is a very exciting Christmas project for the Backyard Farm.

The 'Potentials' arrive home ready to go under Demelza - B1 & B2

We waited until dusk and then snuck the eggs under Demelza – who quickly resettled putting the eggs against the warm patch of bare skin she has plucked on her belly.  I know that this is athropomorphising but she seemed to be making little happy chicken noises, lol.

The Mother Hen - Demelza the Leghorn Bantam.

So now we wait three weeks.  I’ve been reading up on how to raise the chicks, so far it seems we need to:

  • Help Demelza keep the nest clean.
  • Make sure she leaves the eggs and eats once a day (books say some chicken can stare to death?)
  • Sprinkle the eggs with water in the two days before hatching (three weeks away) so that if the eggs have dried out at all the hatchlings don’t stick to the egg membrane.
  • Buy baby chicken food – crumble at the Produce Store.

We aren’t allowed to keep Rosters in this part of Urban Melbourne – so if the Potentials turn out to be Spike and Angel rather than Buffy and Faith – they will return to the farm on which they were conceived.  By the time we know if they are Rosters or Hens Demelza will not be too interested in them anymore.

So very exciting run up to Christmas here – it seems that spring brooded hens will be winter layers – this will help with keeping eggs available for the kitchen all year round.  Tabbitha is still laying and happy to be the boss of the chicken coop for a change.