Archive for September, 2008

You gotta laugh!

September 24, 2008

I was browsing in the supermarket today and came across two seemingly identical jars of fruit chutney, but with different prices. Closer inspection revealed one jar was labelled ‘low joule’, with an asterisk after ‘joule’. I followed the asterisk to the back of the label where I found the explanation: “This product contains 65% less joules than the regular brand”.


It was 40c more than the regular brand!!

What will we see next on labels…”99% joule free”?

There was no-one else around. It would have been interesting to ask the average shopper if they knew what a ‘joule’ was.

Tomatoes are out!

September 22, 2008

The weather has been nice and warm so I decided to plant out my first batch of tomatoes.  There were 27 in all, of the following varieties:

San Marzano
Grosse Lisse
Yellow Pear
Green Grape
Black Russian

I still have Green Zebra, Tigerella & Red Pear growing on. I’ve also sown some Roma and more Grosse Lisse. The Purple Russian didn’t germinate. Perhaps it’s just as well!

I’ll sun-dry the cherry/grape types and freeze the San Marzano for winter’s pasta sauce. The rest we’ll eat fresh.

In addition, I’ve put two San Marzano in a water-wicking box to see how they go.

I hope the neighbours like tomatoes!

Not happy, Hortico

September 22, 2008

Have you noticed how the price of supermarket items is creeping up while the amount of stuff actually in the package is going the other way?

Well don’t look now, but the seed companies are doing it too.

I bought a new packet of Hortico Lebanese zucchini seeds to replace the previous packet which had passed its use-by date. I thought it looked a bit light on and checked the weights on the packet. 4.8 g in the old packet; 2 g in the new. The price hadn’t gone up but I was pretty cheesed off all the same.

It means that whereas a packet might have done me for two or three years growing (assuming the seed would still germinate after that time), it’s getting to the stage where I’ll need to buy a couple of packets just to get a single season’s plants.

Even more reason to become seed self-sufficient.

Spend up!

September 12, 2008

Went down to Diggers Seeds in Dromana yesterday and had a spend up. Here’s what I got:

Pumpkin Delicata Mini Sweet
Lettuce Red Leprechaun Mini
Red Bok Choy (should be a nice colour variation)
Broccoli Waltham
Pak Choy (the little green one, often sold as Baby Bok Choy)
Ground Cherry Aunt Molly (a relative of the Cape Gooseberry)
Cucumber Double Yield

Juniper (for the edible berries)
Carissa (aka Natal Plum)

Green manure bulk packs:
Lucerne, Clover, Alfalfa and Mustard (bio-fumigant used to control nematodes and fusarium wilt). These are broadcast and then dug in before they flower. The clover will be especially useful as it dies off naturally in late spring allowing the next crop to be planted into the remains.

A pack of bio-dynamic soil activator
I’m not really into this biodynamic stuff, but I thought I’d give it a go. The blurb in the packet says: Use of Biodynamic Soil Activator will create healthy balance in the soil, enhance the breakdown of organic matter, attract beneficial fungi, bacteria and earthworms and make your plants become sensitive to cosmic influences such as the rhythms of the moon.

Cosmic influences? Rhythms of the moon? Hmmm….

Seed potatoes:
Dutch Cream. 
I wanted Desiree and King Edward also but they were out of stock. I left it a bit late to plant potatoes this year. These were already sprouting in the bag.

The best thing of all (saved for last) is a low pressure circular sprinkler which I can use from the water tank. It works well. With the tank valve fully open the sprinkler throws a diameter of nearly 4 metres. By gradually closing the valve I can get the throw down to just under a metre before the pressure becomes too low to spin the spray head. It’s going to be very useful for small areas.

I loved the shopping bag they gave me to put it all in. Diggers are very anti-GE seeds. On the side it said:
Say no to GE seeds. Monsanto should be rounded up and composted.”


New links

September 11, 2008

I’ve added Scarecrow’s Garden blog to my list of links at the right. Scarecrow is a lady who lives in the mid-north of South Australia in a climate which could fairly be described as challenging—below zero temperatures in winter and often into the 40’s in summer. Her blog is liberally sprinkled with interesting photos of her daily activities.

I’m indebted to her for links and information on water-wicking beds. At present she’s establishing more and more of them in a variety of shapes and forms. It was from her that I got the idea of the water-wicking boxes, but instead of using polystyrene broccoli boxes as she has, I’ve gone for black plastic recycling crates. I think they’ll have an advantage over the white poly boxes in winter and early spring as they’ll warm up more quickly, but this might be a disadvantage once the heat of summer kicks in. I will have to check the temperature of the soil in my boxes and provide shade where necessary.

I’ve also put a link to Aussies Living Simply, another good self-sufficiency site which has a variety of useful discussion forums and articles on organic gardening. Scarecrow also posts there and is one of the moderators.

The Great Honey Drought

September 11, 2008

Winter viruses and the wettest August for years have combined to leave Britain’s beehives dry. Read on…

This is disturbing news. I don’t think the average person realises the importance of the process of insect pollination in providing most of our food (Grasses, like wheat and rice, are wind-pollinated).

I was interested to see the reference to borage in the article. I knew that it was highly favoured by bees, but apparently it is planted as a crop for the pharmaceutical industry and the bees benefit from this fact. Now, farmers are planting wheat to profit from high prices and borage planting has dropped by 75%.

I planted borage a couple of years ago and ever since then it has self-seeded readily in all sorts of places, even despite the fact that the parrots discovered it last year and began to help themselves liberally to the maturing seeds. 

Although it’s early spring, I’ve noticed lots of bees already on the borage, so this year I’m going to collect as much seed as I can and broadcast it everywhere. It germinates with the autumn/winter rains. The deep blue flowers can be used with striking effect in a tossed salad.

A few recent photos

September 6, 2008

Calendula flower. The edible petals look great in a salad.

Pepinos—socked & unsocked. For an explanation see here.

Tomato seedlings—ready to go…..

…..and two in a water-wicking box.

Spring has sprung!

September 6, 2008

Warm weather at last! It’s about time. I thought it was just me getting old, but everyone has been complaining about the lack of winter sunshine and the cool temperatures this year. Normally I don’t mind the winter; the temperatures outside are bearable and I usually get lots done, but this year we’ve had more rain than usual and everything has been so wet and boggy.

In July we had 81 mm of rain; the average for Melbourne is 49. In August, a stunning 125 mm compared with an average of 57. September’s average is 53 mm and so far in the first 4 days we’ve had 12 mm. Still, there is the sunshine and things in the garden are starting to move.

Today I noticed the first Cabbage White Butterfly of the season and did a frantic covering-up of all the brassicas with netting. The native Showy Bossiaea in the bushland area is flowering and is covered in bees; likewise the self-sown Borage of which there are dozens of plants. I’m happy to see the bees around; it’s a real worry that their numbers might be declining. We do have native Blue-banded Bees, but not very many.

I’m busy preparing more water-wicking boxes for the spring/summer growing season. There are already three up on the house deck and five down the back in the main vegetable garden. I’m putting another two boxes beside the deck; these won’t be fenced off from the rabbits but will sit up on polystyrene fruit boxes where I hope their contents will be out of reach. Not sure what I’ll put in them, probably lettuces and maybe I’ll try some french beans when the weather warms up.

In the boxes on the deck, I’ve sown peas and beetroot and will put a couple of early San Marzano tomatoes in the third. They should relish the heat coming off the house wall. It’s just a trial to see how they go in the boxes as tomatoes normally have large root systems.

Of the five boxes down the back I’ve got Bok Choy chinese cabbage in one and broccoli in two others. Peas have been sown in the fourth and I’m keeping the last for celery (seedlings still small and waiting in the polyhouse). I’d have more boxes if I could, but I’m running out of homemade compost to fill them.

Self-sown Borage