January update

The best thing about January was the weather….only a few days with 30+ temperatures and rainfall (64mm) which exceeded Melbourne’s average for the month (57mm). I was well pleased…living on a bush block in a bushfire zone, with a warming climate, I tend to get rather paranoid in summer now.

Tomatoes were the biggest bearer. I seem to have a lot of cherries this year, but that’s alright. They’ll be sun-dried :



The goal is to fill this jar with dried tomatoes :


San Marzano, a Roma type. Most of these will be frozen for winter cooking :


There are still Black Russian, Green Zebra and Debarao to come. This is my first time growing Debarao (sometimes called De Barao). It’s a Roma-type too, with egg-shaped fruit with less watery pulp and will also be useful for cooking. I freeze a lot of tomatoes and use them over winter for making relish and pasta sauce. Rather than juicing them and bottling and storing the juice, it’s much easier to just defrost the quantity of whole tomatoes that I need, when I need them.


Pepinos are forming. This plant is in a wicking box on the deck. When I plant them in the garden, the rabbits demolish the fruit. I wish I could fit the whole garden up on the deck! (then I suppose the pesky rabbits would learn to negotiate steps!) :


It’s amazing how much growth can be fitted in a wicking box. Not only is the pepino in this one…:


but there’s gotu kola…:


self-sown lemon balm…:


a cucumber…:


and what looks like a self-sown tansy…:


but wait, there’s more…:


…a self-sown alpine strawberry.

An example of what permaculture guru Geoff Lawton likes to call, ‘abundance’.


I forgot to mention in the December update that I had a visit over the Christmas period from Maree, who writes Around The Mulberry Tree blog, and who brought me a healthy-looking elderberry plant :


I’ve sent away for elderberry seeds so many times and have never had any germination, so I was delighted to get an established plant. I can see elderflower cordial and elderberry wine somewhere in the future. Thanks Maree!


I’m disappointed in the cucamelons. The plants have climbed skywards and wound themselves around the deck railings, but there’s no sign of fruit. There are plenty of female flowers with little pre-cucamelons behind them and some male flowers, but it seems no pollination is occurring :




The plants in the strawberry wicking buckets have done well after a poor start in which the first fruits were badly deformed, due I think, to poor pollination :


I’ve picked a steady supply of strawberries, not a huge amount, but enough to have a few on my breakfast mueslii each morning, so I’ll plant a few more buckets for next year. I haven’t even had to net them because they’re up on the deck where birds don’t usually come. The plants are putting out new runners at the moment and it’s easy to pot up a few. Runners grow a tuft of new leaves along their length :


At the base of each tuft of leaves is a collection of roots-to-be :


I peg the runner down into a pot of potting mix with a piece of bent wire, but leave the runner attached to the parent plant :



Once the roots have grown down into the new pot, the runners can be cut away from the parent plant. I wish all plants were as easy to propagate as these.


The New Girls are 24 weeks old and there’s still no sign of eggs. The Old Girls laid at 22 weeks, so I’m anxiously checking daily. The Newbies are so full of beans; any unsuspecting butterfly stupid enough to get through the wire is snatched out of the air with a huge leap; they rocket up and down the 7 metres of connecting corridor between the two runs like mad things; they come when called (well, most times); they love the green grubs off the kale (Molly and Cheeky won’t touch them), and they’re into everythingโ€”a perfect trio of lively, alert, naughty kids. That’s two of them on the left (looking good, eh, Julie?) :


And the remainder of the trio. She’s wondering if the camera is something to eat. (Cheeky behind on the right and Molly bringing up the rear) :


If I can ever tell them apart, which seems unlikely, their names will be Bonny, Missy and Clover (the last after the rabbit in Watership Down….there’s no connection, I just like the name), but until then, they’re just the Newbies, or Newbs, for short.

I’ve been giving Molly & Cheeky a daily treat of grated carrot and yoghurt, which they love. At first the Newbs weren’t interestedโ€”they didn’t understand ‘treats’โ€”but lately they’ve taken an interest. Of course, M & C won’t allow them anywhere near, but Molly is moulting and a bit off-colour so less aggressive and Cheeky has become a bit indifferent to them (only whacks them occasionally), so they’ve managed to elbow their way in and steal some and they like it. So I call them down to their own quarters and give them a bowl on their own. The squeals of delight as they wolf it down and peck splattered yoghurt off each other’s faces has me in stitches.

Not a happy Moulting Molly :



I’ve finally got my act together and planted kale and broccoli seeds early. I always seem to leave it until autumn and then have to wait as they grow too slowly through the cooler winter. I was reading someone’s blog where they said they sowed their winter brassica seeds at the summer solstice (21st December), so I did the same and now I’ve actually got kale in a wicking box growing well. Of course, Cabbage White butterflies are still around, but if I inspect the plants every few days and rub off all the eggs before they hatch, I’m able to keep on top of the problem :



These are Tepary Beans. I have to thank Fran of Road to Serendipity blog for sending the seed a couple of years ago. The first year I grew them I just left them to set seed. I forgot to grow them the following year and thought I’d better put them in this season and collect more seed. I’ll probably leave them for seed again this season then finally grow them to eat. They’re said to be extremely drought tolerant :


Pods are forming :



Basil & endive going well together in a wicking box :


And what’s that in the back left corner? Looks like a seedling plum :



You wouldn’t believe it, but under all that growth on the left, there’s a planter box just like the one on the right :


In the left-hand box there are two cherry tomatoes and some beans that didn’t have a label (looking like climbers). This box had a liberal dose of chook poo compost before planting, hence the rampant growth :


The other one has Purple King climbing beans at the back and basil, kale and silver beet in front. These aren’t wicking boxes, so they need watering every day :


Well, that’s about it for the January wrap-up. I hope February will be as good temperature-wise, but next week is forecast for over 30 C every day, so all I can say is, “roll on autumn”.

Before I go, here’s a really useful post from the Permaculture Research Institute about tomatoes. And check out the link to fix.com given in the article. Another useful site worth bookmarking.

10 Responses to “January update”

  1. narf77 Says:

    Oh NOW I have tomato envy BIGTIME Bev! I have so many tomato vines it isn’t funny. I only bought 2 vines this year, 2 lovely San Manzano’s from a little local nursery and the rest grew from compost, from where they spilled when the pumpkins took over Sanctuary and ran it like a speak-easy from the roaring 20’s and covered everything else last year. My original 2 big veggie gardens are crowded out by tomatoes (which next year will be neatly staked and pruned but this year lay on the ground in great heaving sprawling masses and are trying to take over the walkways in between the garden beds…sigh…)

    I might have cherry tomatoes in that mix, I do have a sort of tomato that keeps making repeat visits in various guises that are produced in big clutches and that are a sort of medium sized pear tomato. NO idea where they originated but they are tenacious and come back every year. A friend gave me “Joey’s tomato” last year. Her son in law grew some big heavy cropping tomato and I got one of the vines but alas, the pumpkins took over and it dropped it’s cargo on the ground but this year Joey’s tomato is back along with Roxies Grosse Lisse seedlings that also produced under a canopy of pumpkin vines. My San Marzano’s are a lot more tubular than yours. Like Roma’s that forgot when to stop elongating. All of them are bright green ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    MORE envy! No pepino’s at all on my bushes but the leaves are HUGE compared to yours so I guess they really got off on being planted out into my local conditions. The leaves on my bushes are about 25cm long and a very dark green. Thank goodness they are perennial so hopefully they might get over their initial desire to out-compete the tomatoes and fruit next year. Your pepino fruit looks lovely. Let me know how they taste ๐Ÿ™‚

    A Malaysian friend just gave me some gotu kola to plant out. I love how it grows and shoved it into the Strawberry water wicked bed. We have Melissa everywhere here. I have a large specimen growing in a crack in my glasshouse floor under my propagating table and it lives off run-off water.

    My cukes are about as advanced as yours are and the same friend that gave me “Joey’s tomato” gave me 2 “cucumbers” that she had no-where to plant out this year. I wasn’t going to plant cukes but then one grew all by itself (must have missed one last year) and so I had 3 “cucumbers” but suddenly one of the cucumbers decided to do a runner and turn into a pumpkin…not sure I am happy about it being in one of my veggie gardens. My pumpkins are planted around the periphery of Sanctuary (fool me once!) so I am keeping an eye on it. At the moment it is behaving itself but I know better than to take my eyes off it…

    I need to get my hands on some wild strawberries as I tasted some in a community garden recently and they were SO much better than regular strawberries. I will never be able to match that intense sweet strawberry flavour unless I can find some out there.

    What a kind gift from Maree :). We have big swaths of elderberries growing wild on some of our walks that we take the dogs on. I am thinking about taking some cuttings when they drop their leaves as I, too, want an elderberry as nothing eats them and I could do with an ego boosting tree on the property ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I will keep you posted on my cucamelons and we can try to work out why yours aren’t growing

    EEK! Hopefully I haven’t missed the boat for planting out brassicas?! I am going to attempt my very first winter veggie garden this year and here I was thinking that I was on top of it! I am going to start planting seeds out right now! Cheers for the good reminder.

    Those tepary beans look pretty Bev. Glad you liked them and they do duel purpose as attractive and non climbing so I should plant mine out eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I have basil growing but we don’t like basil. I gave 2 purple basil plants to our Malaysian friend and have lots of takers for the rest of the crop. I only grew it because “Joey’s tomatoes MIL” gave us the seed.

    Everything looks amazingly healthy Bev and even if it does get up into the 30’s (we are getting a few days of it as well) the veggies don’t mind a bit of heat, it’s just us that protest a lot ;). Thank you for sharing your wonderful veggie garden with us, it galvanises me into more action and gets me moving in the right direction. Note to self “PLANT BRASSICAS!” ๐Ÿ™‚


    • foodnstuff Says:

      It sounds like your pepinos (and everything else in Sanctuary) are getting too much nitrogen from all that lovely compost (I wish I had some). They will settle down in time and flower.

      I would love to have tomatoes “on the ground in great heaving sprawling masses and are trying to take over the walkways in between the garden beds”. That conjures up a picture of tomato bliss.

      I saw wild strawberry seed somewhere recently….it must have been Bunnings as that’s the only place I go for garden stuff. In any case Phoenix Seeds (who are in Tas), had seed for sale last time I looked.

      I will send you some tepary beans from this years batch.

      Liked by 1 person

      • narf77 Says:

        I stopped stressing about the pepino’s as they are having a ball spreading their way right through the garden and when everything else dies back they are going to be king! I figure that all of the flowers that they are producing are just rehearsals for all of the fruit that they are going to produce next year. My tomatoes are everywhere…literally everywhere. I dug one out of one of the strawberry pots I decanted into the water wicked strawberry bed (along with a flowering bulb, an oca and an asparagus plant, NO idea how most of them got in there but whatchagonnadoeh?) and just discovered one growing in one of my succulent pots that I only just transplanted into Sanctuary. They want to take over the world but they are all green at the moment and I have to step over them and maneuver the hose around them whenever I water so as not to step on clusters of flowers and fruit. If they ripen I will be tomato rich. If not, I will be green tomato rich and will have to rethink how to use them but I WILL use them! ;).

        I will check Bunnings for that seed. Did you notice those new packets of Oyster mushroom spawn you can buy at Bunnings? Just under $10 a packet for pink or golden varieties and all you do is add straw. Steve saw Nigel Slater growing them the other day (on the telly, we are not friends of cookery royalty ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and he was growing tonnes of them so Steve got excited and we are going to buy some of the packets. They look most interesting and now everyone can grow them! Check out near the seeds (they were on one of the shelves that Steve was looking at near the seeds when I was boring him to tears going through all of the seeds the other day ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

        Thank you for the tepary beans in advance Bev. They look amazing and would be perfect for here as they are bush beans and unlike other beans don’t head for the hills. I like nice neat things that behave themselves. I don’t have many things like that inside Sanctuary and it’s like trying to tame lions most of the time in there. I think I have the pumpkins subdued for a bit but you know pumpkins and how they can get away from you and with this hot spell, Sanctuary is going mental! I thought it was overgrown last year but it has suddenly sprouted all over the place and everything is shooting up. I put my 4 turmeric plants in the ground and they have shoots coming out all over them and my poor long suffering cardamom is starting to do likewise. There is never anything boring about producing food in your garden. It pays you back so much more than you put into it and the more perennials you can get in there, the more it pays you back. Growing 10 pots of globe artichokes at the moment to plant out all over the place. I am going to have a food forest if I have to wrestle the possums myself to get it! ๐Ÿ˜‰


  2. Bek Says:

    What a lot to see. My cucamelons have not yet set fruit either. I wonder if they don’t like this cooler summer weather we’ve been having, but like you I quite like it.
    You’ve reinforced I need to look at wicking beds. I really want to make some now just need to make some plans!


    • foodnstuff Says:

      I don’t think it’s a weather thing with the cucamelons. It’s got to be pollination and when you think about the size of the flowers, it’s not surprising.

      Research the wicking bed thing thoroughly before you start. There are so many different ideas out there now.


  3. Chris Says:

    Wow, your garden is productive! A testiment to the owner. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve noticed regarding flowering, the summer growing season is really just to get the plants established. The flowers don’t seem to want to arrive before the weather cools down again – autumn to early winter. I also don’t think the bees like to be around when its so hot. It may also coincide (I’ve noticed) when the acacias and eucalyptus trees are in flower. The bees have plenty of food around then, so don’t need to visit the garden, where its often hotter. It’s cooler collecting pollen from trees

    Perhaps this is something we have to consider in cooler climates, because if the fruit doesn’t set until autumn, some may not be ripe until the frosts hit. So that means stratagies to protect the plant, via heat sinks or cloths.

    Come to think of it, it does have everything to do with when the acacias and eucalyptus trees flower. Only when they don’t, do I get a good influx of bees in the garden.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Thanks for those ideas; it’s something I need to think about, because I’m not getting good pollination here this year. Whether it’s a decline in bees generally or that they have other goodies to focus on, I don’ t know. I’m going to have to sit up and take more notice, though and keep records.

      We don’t get frosts here, so that’s one thing to cross off the list. The acacias have long finished and the eucalypts seem to flower intermittently. I know that I need more bee-friendly plants in the garden; I can’t rely on them to just come to the veggies when I want them to. Also they don’t fly in cloudy weather and anyway, business as usual with regard to climate is over for the future.


  4. a Says:


    January update | Foodnstuff


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