Saturday, 30 November 2013

Floral flush

My grandmother had Hydrangeas all down one side of her semi out in Blair Street Bondi. They are a very old-fashioned flower, dare I say, an out-of-fashion flower. However, Kirsten's father gave her a vase full, and she liked them. Mainly, she liked them because as a cut flower they lasted, with minimal degradation for well-nigh three weeks. So I bought some online. Well, I actually bought two examples each of seven varieties, pretty much across the colour spectrum. But each is a mophead.

I did not know that there are two distinct plants in the Hydranges macrophylla genus, a mophead, and a lacecap. I gather the mophead is the common (garden) variety. If I can preserve this lot of 14 plants from the possums down the back, I might invest in a couple of lacecaps in a season or two. At the moment, the back garden has an interesting floral flush during the cooler months. We start off in June-August with half a dozen camellias (all japonicas).Which reminds me, I must work towards eradicating the webbing spiders on the camellias. Then, we swing into mix of orange and creme Cliveas during August, and September, and then a try at Agapanthus, which is not working due to poor conditions and lack of attention. A splash from a row of Hydrangeas will take the back garden all the way through Christmas.

The hydrangea came as 'tubestock', so called, I guess, because they come in ... tubes. Duh! Anyway, damned useful devices are these tubes. I currently have three January tomatoes getting their act together in them, and I intend to strike cauliflower and broccoli seeds in them at the end of December. But I digress ...

To all the floral flush discussed above, add the alternating of 'crystal palace' Lobelia with mixed marigolds, in the semi-circular garden atop the rockery, and I have a PLAN!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Raspberry jam in the first season? Not quite.

Did a lot of garden maintenance today. Made a decision that I was the owner of the garden, and the plants were mere tenants. They have to do it MY way! Many of them got a hair cut, including the rampant tomatoes, where entire trusses of fruit were tossed onto the scrap heap. Scavenged around the green beans trying to get them a bit of air, a bit of sun, and even some light. They are still flowering, so that is good.
Then I started to read up about Raspberries, as the fruit is 'starting' to come, but they are not bountiful, and are a bit on the small side. I know the nursery guff about this particular Raspberry (Heritage) says it fruits on 'primocanes', but my photos seem to indicate that they are only fruiing on last years canes, the 'floricanes'. The floricanes are brown, and a bit withered looking. But as you can see, the fruit is coming. I gather that primocanes will produce a small crop in the autumn. So, once these floricanes produce no more, I cut them down to about 2cms above ground level, and they will produce next years primocanes. Neat little alternating pattern this fruit has going. After the primocanes fruit in autumn I need to just trim the top of each cane, and ensure that they have air and light. DO NOT ALLOW TOO MANY CANES TO GROW. I will also not grow anything other than Raspberries and Blueberries in that bed, No more corn in there, and no more beetroot.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The secret life of the Rocky

See way down in there, that little yellow hairy thing? I think that is a just-hatched rockmelon. It is a bit more apparent in this second view. Same specimen. I hope to provide a running commentary, with images, on the life cycle of this delicious melon. What I think so far, and I am sooo new at this, is that there is a high flower to fruit ratio. Not sure if this is because some flowers are not fertile, or just a strangely high proportion of them are male. Whereas the Zucchini flower is easily distinguished, male from female due to the thickness of the flower stem, this does not appear to be the case with thr Rockmelon. The plant is nicely trailing down the pots and across the poebbles now. An issue for the future, I guess.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Soil quality

The quality of the soil is but one of the many parameters one needs to juggle when maintaining a veggie patch. Some of the others being: sunlight, water, PH levels, bugs. fertiliser, and crop rotation.

To this end, I have a continual stream of compost on the tumble. Not mulch, which to my mind is purely for water retention, and has not undergone the necessary decomposition. Not humus, as I tend to think of this as containing decaying animal matter as well as decaying vegetable matter.

I suspect I do not tumble my compost for long enough. Look at this latest batch that I have just layered into the low bed. There were 8.5 bucket loads (an 8L bucket). Can you see the complete leaves in amongst the rest? If this were 'mature' compost, the entire mix would be more friable, rich but more like soil..

But, I am getting there ...

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Capsicum - when to harvest?

My fruits are a brilliant green, yet the packet suggests I am heading toward a red fruit, and with a name like 'Redskin', the game is up!

The rear of the label says:
Redskin is a compact variety suitable for container growing. It produces high yields from early in the season. The 10 - 13 cm fruit mature from green through purple to red.
My lone plant is in a terracotta pot, that is well watered and fertilised every fortnight (alternating between Dynamic Lifter and Charlie carp). At this stage, the yield appears wonderful with the dozen or so fruit totally jostling for space in what is, essentially, a compact small bush. I guess this is why many capsicum appear a trifle pugilistic! The two largest fruit currently measure 7cms, so my guess is about another month on the vine. Must ensure they can feed 'grossly'.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Doing the 'Crop Rotation' tango!

Left: Truss tomatoes ... Right: Grape tomatoes

Two examples lead on to the 'issues' that I am trying to cope with in this first foray into veggie gardening since 1959-1960. First example, is one I have mentioned before. I stuffed both carrots and peas. The carrots were all twisted and gnarled, whereas the peas did not bear more than about three examples of fruit. Second example, is that my tomato vines have turned into a dense, twisted jungle which I despair will ever ripen any fruit.

So, what are the broader issues? First, the soil must be tilled adequately, 'friable' I believe is the term'. No sticks, no stones, but lots of organic matter. And the tilling must be much more than surface deep, one foot in depth even! Second, Not all plants make good neighbours. Some will happily coexist, while others must either precede or follow.

So, I need a rotation plan. 'Gardening Australia' recommends FOUR BEDS X FOUR YEARS. So, this I will incorporate into my forward planning. Requires much thought, as my choice of vegetables - the ones the family is happy to consume - are so at variance to that which GA has chosen.

Left: What is the mongrel eating my raspberries? ... Right: When do I harvest this bounteous supply of capsicum?

Left & Right: This cucumber is looking a treat with about 8 cuwies nearing harvest.

And finally, a rockmelon. I have never grown them before, but think the fruit is just below, but separate from, the flower. Shall be interested to see if I am anywhere close!

Monday, 4 November 2013


Gardening is all about 'the birds and the bees', I guess. We have 8 corn plants, which are progressing a treat, but have now reached payback time. Will the soil conditions, the amount of water, and the hours of sunlight be sufficient to allow them to bring forth and multiply. So far, on the 8 plants, there are the makings for a dozen cobs, which is encouraging.

Here we have the female part (above) and the male part (below). When the female is sufficiently exposed and blousy, the male will sprinkle his pixie dust, and presto! Darren has already been showing Alannah what we have in store. Hopefully, we will have ripe cobs prior to Christmas.

Getting images in focus is becoming more and more a challenge!