Posts Tagged ‘Vegetable Garden’

Feral Bees Fly By

Hive Box New Home for Swarm!

Interesting weekend in the backyard.  We had our first warm spring day on Saturday and the temperature shot up to 20 degrees Celsius – lovely!  All of a sudden the backyard was a swirling sea of bees.  The air was think with bees for about an hour and then the wild swarm settled in a large ball on the jasmine vine on our back fence. This is the second wild swarm that we have attracted to our backyard in the last two years.  The sound of a swarm of bees is flight is truly deafening, more like the roar of jet engines than a gentle hum – amazing!

I called a ‘Swarm Collection’ beekeeper from the Southside Beekeepers and she arrived very quickly to start collecting the bees.  Now I wish I had taken photos of this process but it was too exciting to even think about tearing my eyeballs away for a moment.  I even suited up myself to help (I held the cardboard box)!

Essentially the beekeeper used a large soft brush called a ‘Bee Brush’ to sweep the bees off the vine and into a large cardboard box.  Once the bees were in the box they were gently transfered to a hive box (see photo). We actually saw the Queen Bee slide into the hive and once she was installed any bees still in flight started to move towards the hive box.  The bees that had settled on the pale-pink-sheet we had laid on the ground under the swarm all turned around and formed neat cues to crawl up the sheet into the hive door – strangest thing I’ve ever seen.

By dusk on Sunday all the bees had settled in the hive.  The beekeeper then taped the box closed after giving the bees two hive frames of honey (food and water).  The bees were then on their way to a new permanent home with a backyard vegie grower only a few suburbs away from me.


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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.

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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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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!

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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.

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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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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

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