Posts Tagged ‘Gardening in Melbourne’

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!


Read Full Post »


Nessa, Kenso and Demelza - a happy chicken family.


Chicken Update

Our new chicks are now fully feathered and 6 weeks old.  Mum Demelza is still actively mothering the chicks who are becoming increasingly bold and independent day by day.

The biggest problem we have had has been the need to separate Tabbitha from the flock.  Tabbitha is a Leghorn bantam and sister to Demelza. Instead of becoming broody she has become increasingly agressive towards the chicks. After a week of Tabbitha waking us up every morning with her attempts to crow we needed to do something. A crowing hen will soon have all the neighbours offside.  Last night we swapped the chickens around placing Demelza and chicks in the new run and Tabbitha back in her old run – hazaar she has stopped crowing!

It seems that Tabbitha is turning broody but wants to brood her eggs in the coop she is familiar with.  Demelza and the chicks seem happy anywhere so long as they are together.  The plan is now to leave them separated until the chicks are three months old by which time I hope Tabbitha has passed in and out again of broodiness and should be ready to share space again.  Here’s hoping!


The Roma tomatoes continue to develop with blossom end rot.  Other tomatoes are fruiting but not in spectacular bounty.  There is still a second bed to come on – but at this stage it is looking like another poor harvest with no surplus for bottling – fail!

Eating the Produce

Tonight I am making Potato, Onion and Cheese Pancakes with Sour-cream and Chive dressing.  There are enough tomatoes ready to pick to make a Butter Crunch Lettuce, Tomato and Cucumber Salad.

Butter Crunch Lettuce has again performed really well in our sandy soil.  My cucumbers have not yet produced fruit so I have swapped a promise of honey for cucumbers with a college at work.

Garden tasks for February

We have had extremely strong winds today so tomorrow will be spent tying up plants that have fallen over in the wind and assessing the state of the garden.  We have had rain in the last week but the garden is looking very dry.  I think it is too late to sow any more seeds but I would like to try another sowing of Purple King Beans.

I intend to visit the Market tomorrow to see if there are any Vegetable seedlings worth planting now. Otherwise the next task for February is to work out in which order the Chicken Coop will rotate around the vegetable beds and planning the planting for the winter crop.

Read Full Post »


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.


Read Full Post »

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…

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »


The fence.

I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries over the last week.  Our new backyard fence is finally up.  I’m not crazy about the stark newness of this fence or its height.

The news this week has been full of reports that the population of Melbourne is growing by 200 people per day making us the fastest growing city in Australia.  As I’m still struggling to grow a meaningful amount of food in our backyard – I’ve been wondering if sharing yards would make vegetable gardening more productive – in short are subdivided backyards unsustainable?


Contemplating the containment of nature - Installation in Preserving Jar

As often happens, while trawling through a bookshop today, the appropriate book showed up – Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, A project by Fritz Haeg.  What an amazing book – since getting home I’ve not been able to put it down.

The garden began behind walls a truce, a compromise, between human need and natural resource.  In most languages the word ‘garden’ derives from the root ‘enclosure’.  The garden walls protected human cultivation from the wild threats in the untamed expanses.  Now that a wilderness unaffected by human intervention no longer exists, the garden walls have fallen.  The enclosed, cultivated space protected behind the house is nolonger a worthwhile model.  The entire street must be viewed as a garden, and by extension the entire city we are tending, and beyond.  We have intervened on all levels of environmental function and with no walls remaining we have taken on the role of planetary gardener by default.”

I often think that the way we garden is a reflection of how we think the world should be.  Are we creating an organic utopian paradise, the ultimate cricket pitch or a controlled weed-free universe.  Are our gardens our personal vision of ‘Eden’?  I think that there is truth in the Epicurean ideal that all one needs to be happy is to sit in a garden with good friends.  Perhaps, in my personal ideal, boundary fences don’t exist?

I am however of two minds, as I imagine we all are, since there is a tension between the desire to share and be open and the need to order and contain my private space.


See my beans standing all in a row - possible evidence of control issues.

I think this is an issue I will come back to after more thought.  I’d love to hear what you think?

Read Full Post »

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


Read Full Post »