Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Sous Jardinier

On the weekend - Sunday actually, as Saturday was 34C - we planted some Cos lettuce, replacing the broccoli (which had been riddled with green grubs from white butterflies), and Butterbeans, replacing the Cauliflower, which were a wonderful grow, even though son-in-law said they were not full of home-grown flavour.
Mama has a "sous chef", so I now have a "sous jardinier". She is not the most gentle of gardeners, and is loathe to take advice, but she did not step on any of them, and it was an easy task to simply adjust them later.

In large (plastic) pots I also planted a "Jap" pumpkin, and an apple cucumber. The pumpkin, to Kirsten's astonishment, will be ready for harvest come autumn.

In the garden, at the moment, we have:
podding peas,
snow peas,
green beans,
butter beans,
spring onions,
carrots (my nemesis!),
lebanese cucumbers,
apple cucumbers,
silverbeet (spinach),
dutch cream potatoes,
kipfler potatoes,
Jap pumpkin, and
The only other thing I can think of is radish, and I know just the pot. Shame is is not popular in this household.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Let's fire this up again

I tried to grow 5 Cauliflower across one of my raised beds. They each fruited, but two were runts. I will attempt only three next time. I read that Cauli will turn either yellow or purple if the head is too exposed to the sun. This is not one of those genetically-fiddled-with purple Caulis like I saw over at Harris Farm today. Makes no difference to either the taste, or the nutrition. But, I am not a fan.

I had two reaping sessions this week, of about this size. I will walk you through my current plantings over the next week. I love Cauli, but thr proportion of leaf to fruit has to be seen to be believed!

Monday, 23 June 2014

One year on, what have I learnt?

The Gingerbread Gardens started in May 2013, with a planting of celery and silverbeet. Far too many celery (8 plants), which was not a favoured veggie anyhow. And far too much silverbeet, yet again 8 plants. Both these were via Bunnings seedlings, which come in quantity. It has taken me a year to transfer to seeds, or to throw out some of the seedlings! This year I know not to bother with celery and to reduce the number of silverbeet seedlings. I have 5 at the moment, but within a week will reduce to two.
So, just what HAVE I learnt during this first year? These photos document it quite well:
  • Prepare the soil.
  • Plan the plantings.
  • Rotate beds.
  • Leave a fallow "bed".
Prepare the Soil
Both (above-ground) beds were filled with whatever dirt was dug out from the garden site, with a, perhaps, 6" layer of better quality soil placed on top. I now know this is insufficient. I am continuing to add to the soil when each monthly load of compost becomes available. In addition, each month I sprinkle (liberally) the bed with Dynamic Lifter. Both beds are nearly full up to their top rung, so from here on out it is a matter of turning the soil after each crop, and planting an annual crop of "green manure", probably at the end of summer. This takes 6-10 weeks, so is a big commitment of space. I have also invested in a garden sieve. I am NOT going to let those pesky, split/curly carrots get the better of me.
Plan the Plantings
I have, using advice from both Diggers and Gardening Australia, devised a list of veggies to grow (those that my family will actually eat!), together with quantity, and frequency of planting, for a family of five. I will modify this list during the next 12 months.
Rotate Beds
Exhortatios to rotate crops, at the very least, assume four beds: Brassicas, Legumes, Alliums, and other. But, they also assume a four year rotation, which is not how I see my veggie patch working. My dig-up cycles are much shorter than twelve months, for heaven's sake. More like 3 to 6 months. I have two beds, the citrus bed, and a range of large (ish) pots. Each of the two large beds, I have (virtually) divided into three subsets, and will rotate these. Sometimes monthly, sometimes 6-monthly. How do I rotate things like carrots and spring onions, when I have to plant another 15 every month. Garening is not for the faint-of-heart!
Leave a fallow bed
I am figuring that this requirement goes hand-in-glove with the "green manure" rewuirement. I am not grpwing a crop, so much as growing nitrogen.
I have two main beds, but find I am cribbing by using large pots. Currently in pots, I have:
  • Silverbeet
  • Kipfler Potatoes
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Capsicum
  • Cucumber.
I also have about 20 Kipfler potatoes scattered around the citrus bed, but do not want to do this again, as I think they are sucking all the nutrients, meaning no citrus blossom since. Think it through, Jools! Think ramifications!
I have also learnt that gardening is constant work. Not hard work, mind you. Just that one needs to wander the gardens to know what is going on with the plants, with the soils, with the bugs. Wander with NO intent. One needs to spend time weeding. The more frequently this is done, the less it needs to be done, if that makes sense. One must be in tune with the seasons, although in Sydney, I think there is only the warm season , and the not-so-warm season. I am also a firm believer that a garden needs to surprise, at every turn.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Emulating unslavishly, if that is possible

I work on the premise that there is very liuttle in the world that is original, certainly very little in the field of garden-design. In December I wrote about my ideas for vertical gardens down one of our fence-lines. In this post, I included some vertical-garden ideas, to kick-start my own thinking. The post today shows in some detail one of the desing ideas that I ran with.

Sure, the original idea is more colourful, and fills the available spce more comprehensively. I will revisit this fence panel in about a year, to see whether the succulents have grown sufficiently to claim the panel as their own.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


I don't even need cheese to make this vegetable more appealing to my palate. It has always been one of my favourites, boiled but still crunchy. Done as a slow bake "gratin" it is delicious, I grant you. And there was a stage, that I would dunk the heads in a cumin-based paste, and lightly fry. Once again, delicious.

The heads of the caulis I grew this year have been small, but I will work on that. I thought I grew equal numbers of Broccoli AND Cauliflower, but the Brocolli outnumbered by perhaps 5:1, for some reason. Germination, perhaps. I am about to plant another 5 Cauliflower. They are a massuve plant so, hope I leave suficient space.

Top photo, the cauli I pulled this arvo.
Bottom photo, the cauli I will pull in about two weeks.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Never bruise one's carrot leaves

I went looking for suggestions re continuous planting of carrots which, in Sydney, I judge, could be all year round. This English site is informative, to some extent, even though I had to chart the seasons in the hemispheres, and the varieties are all different. I was a bit overwhelmed by the Tasmanian chart of what can go wrong when growing carrots. I know they tend to be precious, and fork with the simplest of presure. One of the reasons that I have veered toward above-ground veggies.

The photos here were taken 10th May, and show my one carrot success. The size difference is due to my NOT thinning the seedlings anything like enough. I am using Mr Fothergill's "Baby Pak" carrots, but will change over to Diggers seeds come this spring. My next lot, I will sow mid-June for harvest 10 weeks later, making it the beginning of September. From then onwards, I will sow a dozen plants per month, and see if my supply for the kitchen can be more regular.

And the bruising of leaves? Ahha. The carrot fly is attracted to the smell of bruised carrot leaves, and then weedles its way into the root.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Hanging gardens

Our vertical gardens are on the way, yet very much in their infancy. Time, and growth will meld them into the environment. There are five panels. The top-most panel, being the rake-down of the fence, I have not even begun to address.
The left hand photo is the second panel from the road-edge. It contains 18 * 16cm terracotta pots from Bunnings which are about $1.50 each. I put them in a top heavy design, with 7 pots on the top fence railing, 6 pots on the midle fence railing, and 5 pots on the bottom fence railing. The loop is home-made and is from a roll of 2cm wide tin with ready-made screw holes. Darren attached them to the railing using treated-pine appropriae screws. They are strong enough, but with a bit of a slope, which makes it crucial not to overfill each pot with soil, to allow the water to soak in rather than run-off. More details on this panel in the days ahead.

The right hand photo is the panel for the girls. Alannah had already laid claim to this panel with her HB-pencil. It is where she writes up all her "tape-measuring". So it just seemed obvious to put up some sheets of marine-ply and coat them with chalkboard paint. We have a good supply of chalk in the toy box. Have yet to work out a storage/hanging place for the little buckets that hold the chalk.
The left hand photo, here, is the 4th panel from the road, and requires the fence to do a lot of heavy lifting. So far, so good. The trellis is an old piece that Hamish used for his hen-house. We brushed it, and washed it, and the gang attached it to the fence panel one afternoon at Easter, as detailed yesterday. I chose that panel because that is where the fence had to "break" to go around the Jacaranda tree, and the result bordered on untidy. This has made all the difference. The wall-pots are flat on one side and of two styles, basket, and trough. The baskets contain herbs, and the troughs contain strawberries. More on this in the week ahead.

The right-hand photo gives the appearance of being all structure waiting for a planting. Darren has strung four wire stays to cover two fence panels, and I have temporarily placed three large black tubs in-situ. I had planned to plant three passionfruit vines - until Alannah confessed that she was not keen on them, but would prefer one to be a Kiwi-fruit. However, kiwi-fruit require bothe a male and a female plant. To compound the issues, A;lannah then tasted a kiwifruit and realised that was not a favourite, So, the jury is out. I had thought of grapes, however, they prefer a drier climate than Sydney affords. Unless, I can find a variety that is mildrew resistant ...

The top'n'tail of this post shows the vertical gardens from each direction

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Comfort zones, on the edge

As a means to an end, a segue if you will, here are some photos taken at Easter, which was the end of April. Yes?

Kirsten has many skills and attributes, but being "handy" would not rank up there. She can concoct homus, slap up a wholegrain high-top, and temper eggs to perfection. But nuts'n'bolts, screw'n'nails, Phillips'n'slotted beget a blank gaze.

So, double was her pleasure, when she got to drive the power-drill as Darren started in on the panels of our hanging garden over the extended break, Easter abutting ANZAC Day as it did this year.

Sure, there was much patient explanation. Much uncomprehending hilarity. But she got it. "By George, she got it!"

Next: The Hanging Gardens today

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Coles Black Leg

I had originally thought this to be "black leg", a mould to which Cole veggies (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts) are susceptible. This specimen is on my Broccoli.

However, when I crop the image and view it close up, the grey "crystals" appear to be bugs.

My solution to this infestation, was to remove the infected plants if they were stunted, or to remove the affected leaves, if the plant appeared otherwise vigorous. I gather that most issues with Cole varieties arise due to their size, vigour, and growing too close together. AND over-head watering. My two beds suffered from all this. They looked wonderful until last week when they appeared to "sag", a bit like Alannah when she droops her shoulders to signify unhappiness.
So, my mantra now is "open heads - open legs". Many of the outer leaves can be removed once the florets start to form They simply get in the way of themselves or their neighbour, blocking light and significantly reducing air circulation. By keeping the understorey, clear, free from weeds and mouldy leaves, it allows the circulation of air and light to work wonders. My older bed of Broccoli is a bit devastated, but the newer bed is benefitting tremendously.

The overhead watering is easily solved, either by using a free-flow (hand-held) hose, or by use of the 26*3 litre milk bottles I have stashed around the garden to water the large pots.

Friday, 18 April 2014

The geometry of succulents

When I was a kid, I lived on a sheep farm - "Dolwendee" - which was riddled with both Prickly Pear and the dreaded Tiger Pear. It has taken me decades to come to terms with the difference between cacti and succulents, because of this.
However, the Rubicon has been crossed, and I am a fervent admirer of the shape, colour and diversity of succulents. I am aiming to expand the variety in my garden, especially those succulent with the tightly wound spirals that seem to abound on Pinterest

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Staggeringly healthy again!

Just over a year ago, when I moved from Paddington - on the south of the harbour - to Castlecrag _ on the north of the harbour - I had to detach this staghorn from the brickwall of the previous garage, creating havoc with its fronds, and with its structure. It was not in a good space for some months. However, it is a tough, resilient old biddy, and is now back to its roaring days.

According to Gardening Australia, "elkhorns have many plants growing together in communities and they have smaller, slender fronds. Whereas staghorns tend to grow as larger individuals". So, this is one of the numerous varieties of Staghorn Platycerium grande, which are endemic to the temperate forests of Eastern Australia, They are epiphyts which means that they although they grow on another plant, they don't get food, minerals or water from that host plant.

In Paddo, I used to toss in banana peels and all my veggie waste. The staghorn loved it. Here I use all that in my compost. I will try to save a couple of banana peels a week, as well as the tea-dregs from Kirsten's pot. We go through up to about 20 bananas each week.

I have spent time this evening surfing for quality elkhorns and staghorns. I have found that the place in Victoria from which I sourced my Hydrangeas, also stocks Stags and Elks. Hopefully, I will get a few more little plants for the back wall of the old garage over the off-season.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Going up!

I have been working on these trays of succulents for close to two months now. Hopefully, I will be able to make a start on my vertical gardens over the Easter-ANZAC Day break.

When is a staircase a fence?

Of late, Cooper has taken to sitting halfway up the stairs, just below the landing. He does this from when he is fed until the Lynn family retires to their own living quarters. Having a foot in both worlds. Monitoring comings-and-goings. Lord of all he surveys.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A garden short-back'n'sides

The benefit, and results, of this task today is probably more apparent to me tnan to anyone else. Tall, lanky garden growth is to be avoided. Neat'n'tidy is my motto. So, today Hamish and Paul came in with their massive ladder, and their array of long-handled cutters, and trimmed the entire back garden.
Much of the growth was designed to screen out neighbours. Not really for privacy, but rather some aimless sort of blank that insists that other houses should not even be seen! Once screening plants like Pistosterims get too high they start to lean away from the main stem of the plant and loose their screening effect anyway.

Not long after we moved in last year, I went around the entire rear garden and raised the skirt of all the plants (camelia, rhododendron, lily-pily, magnolia) to expose the understorey, which although deliberately planted, had been crowded out by the unrestrained growth. I will now go around and trim this skirt again, in the process removing the struggling Chinese Star Jasmine along the back fence which simply cannot get enough sun, and never will.

In the front, the massive red camelia was trimmed (for the first time in many years, is my guess), even though it had already set buds. The Lily-Pily on the end was removed to make way for the letter-box.

Getting ready for the winter hibernation.