February update

February wasn’t such a bad month weather-wise…a few days in the 30’s, but nothing that couldn’t be coped with. I’m hoping that’s it for summer. According to the weather bureau, Melbourne didn’t receive a single day over 40 degrees this summer. Bit of a change from last year! Only 3 weeks to the autumn equinox, when things will really start to cool down.

I’m weighing all the food that comes into the house (via garden and supermarket) for 12 months just to see how I’m going with the self-sufficiency effort. I did it a couple of years ago and found that I was growing about 50% of my fruit and vegetables, which accounted for about 20% of total food input. I decided to do it again this year…..starting last September…..because I felt that I wasn’t really improving and might even be going backwards. The end of February marks the halfway point.

In 6 months I harvested 67 kg of food from the garden and bought in 86 kg of fruit & veggies and 175 kg of groceries. So I grew 44% of my fruit and veggies which was 20% of total food. So I’m not doing any better, just holding steady (although some of the garden yield gets picked and nibbled on the spot and greens and herbs generally don’t get weighed). The next 6 months won’t be as good because winter in the garden is usually a lean time.


The strawberry wicking buckets continue to provide good yields, albeit with a bit of variation in size :


The tiny one clocked in at 5 g and the biggy at 25 g. If strawberries were sentient beings, I’d imagine the little one is feeling pretty cheesed off with life right now.


I’ve had huge yields of cherry tomatoes with the result that I’ve already filled two 1 litre jars with dried tomatoes and there are still plenty more coming :




The cucamelons started producing, not immense amounts, but at least enough to take a photo :


Pumpkins and zucchinis were a disaster this season. There weren’t many flowers and those that did appear failed to produce fruit because of poor, or no pollination. I was pollinating the earlier flowers with a paintbrush, but got a bit lax with it towards the end of the season and got no fruit at all. I think I proved pollination was the problem by hand-pollinating one last zucchini flower and getting a fruit from it, before I pulled the whole lot out in disgust and disappointment. Maybe the lack of flowers was due to low potassium levels in the soil…..they were planted in a hugelkultur bed….so I will add plenty of wood ash from the fire before next season.  Lack of bees is a greater concern. Perhaps I need to plant more flowers to attract them.


Last year I put half a dozen raspberry plants in a hugelkultur bed. They flowered in spring and I picked some berries, but there were so few that I didn’t bother to net them. The old canes that flowered died off and several new canes appeared. Now they’re flowering and there are plenty of tiny raspberries coming, so I thought I’d better do something about netting :


Star pickets at each end of the row. Melaleuca sapling cut for crosspiece and wired to the star pickets. Pieces of 19 mm poly pipe wired to crosspiece :


That should do it :



Mystery seedlings. I have a tendency to not throw out seedling trays when I’ve finished potting up from them, until I’m desperate for room in the polyhouse. I do chuck out the labels, though. Silly. I was about to consign this tray to the compost when I noticed the 4 seedlings in the corner :


I didn’t recognise them. Unlikely they’d be weeds as the seedling mix is pretty clean and they couldn’t have blown in because all my seedling trays are kept in the polyhouse. The leaves at the top belong to zaatar, an oregano-type herb which I’d finished potting up. So I checked on my propagation database to see what I’d sown about the same time. Well, with  great surprise…..it could have only been elderberry! And I’ve sent away for elderberry seed so many times and never got it to germinate. So much so, that I was rapt when Maree of Around the Mulberry Tree brought me an elderberry plant late last year. Here it is, planted and doing well :


Same pinnate foliage…..surely that has to be it! And then I remembered; the seed came from Phoenix Seeds in Tassie. I’d always sent for European Elderberry before; last time I asked for American Elderberry. It obviously germinated, but has taken its time. Now I need to look up the differences between the two. It looks like I’ve gone from having no elderberries to having five!


I found this piece of ginger in the cupboard :


I’ve tried to grow ginger (unsuccessfully) once before and almost threw this piece out, but then thought, what the heck, I’ll give it another go. So it’s in a pot in the polyhouse, where I can keep an eye on it :



I had a plant of Red Russian kale which flowered and went to seed. I cut off the top part with the seed heads on and the bottom part shot out new clusters of growth from the leaf axils. I’m always looking for new ways to propagate plants, so I broke off a few of the clusters and put them in as cuttings. It worked! They grew roots :


I’m starting to prepare beds for planting garlic and potato onions at the March equinox. I’ll plant my own potato onions harvested from last year, but my garlic was very small, so I’ve sent off to Yelwek Farm again for more bulbs.


I’m very disappointed with my bamboo. I planted it 9 months ago and I thought by now I’d be cutting stems for stakes. I watered it with comfrey tea which made it greener but it didn’t grow. At least it hasn’t died :


We had 26 mm rain during the month, less than half Melbourne’s average of 46 mm. March began with 11 mm. I hope it continues; I have dozens of plants waiting to be planted.

And finally, this from the morning paper a week or so ago :

 Australian health authorities are reviewing the case for fluoride in drinking water amid concerns scientific evidence supporting the benefits and risks to people’s health may have shifted

My views on fluoride in drinking water are here. If I didn’t already have a water tank, I’d be putting one in.

12 Responses to “February update”

  1. narf77 Says:

    Another excellent post Bev. Excellent that you had babies grow from your seedling mix. Awesome share on the kale and I will be trying this ASAP. My bamboo is only small but then it is still in a pot so I should probably plant it out someplace. Glad I am not weighing out produce at the moment as I would probably tear out everything in Sanctuary in disgust BUT it is a work in progress and there are a lot of baby perennials in there so I have to give them time to mature and get producing. I have had 2 cucamelons from my vines, but they have gone mental and are now covered in them. Our summer only started at the beginning of February. Prior to then the temperatures were in the low 20’s and we had regular rain. SO unlike normal summers but blissful without hot days. The only downside was that the garden didn’t do much this year. We saw winter return to the garden in the last week of February and so after 3 weeks of “Summer”, there are lots of leafy greens and very little else. I saw one of my huge San Marzano’s had ripened and went to pick it yesterday morning, but a slug had gotten to it first :(. Oh well…the things that we do to produce food eh? Lots more food trees are going to be planted out this winter, nut trees especially. One day I WILL get food from Serendipity Farm. Till then, I take heart from your wonderful posts…keep them coming, I need the motivation 🙂


    • foodnstuff Says:

      What are you doing with the cucamelons? I’m just using them for nibbles. Haven’t used them in any actual dishes yet. Tepary beans are ripening and will be sending you some soon. Sorry you didn’t have much of a summer, but I’m so glad it’s over.

      Liked by 1 person

      • narf77 Says:

        It’s a wonder you can’t hear me cheering about summer being over Bev, it might have been short but I am not someone who loves hot weather and will be very glad to get back to some nice cool days. Thank you for sharing tepary beans, I will look forward to planting them next season. I have only had a couple of cucamelons but we are just cutting them in half and eating them in big salads. I really like them. I like how they are crunchy and a little bit lemony and can see that by next year there will be little punnets of them sold in supermarkets for a hideously expensive price. Kids would love them 🙂


  2. pruefreefood Says:

    Hay sum advise, you will have to peg down tha edges ov dat net mate birds will get in under it like dat if there is even one gap, we use tent pegs they r sneaky dem birds a…. good luck 🙂


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Thanks Prue, but you weren’t supposed to see all the gaps. LOL! I was in a hurry to get the photo taken and just threw some net over the top, thinking no-one would notice it wasn’t a real good cover ;-).


  3. chrysartglass Says:

    I also had a very poor zucchini crop this year. At first my plant only produced male flowers then for a couple of week both male and female ,then just female flowers for weeks so the tiny little zuc’s just shrivelled on the vine. I finally pulled it out today.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      It is disappointing, isn’t it? Unless I can find out how to get more male and female flowers together, I’m wondering if they’re worth growing at all.


  4. Clare Says:

    Great work – 44% by weight is good, all those nibbles/herbs probably mean way more in nutrients. If your pumpkin and zucchini grew well would have added lots of weight. Melbourne weather is so variable – lots of year to year randomness. I’ll have to find/try cucamelon and try kale cuttings. Best wishes, Clare


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Thanks. Yes, pumpkins and zucchinis would have made a great contribution. I haven’t done well with them for the last couple of years…wondering whether to keep persevering with them. It would be nice to have a stock of pumpkins for the winter, though.


  5. kmfinigan Says:

    Everything is looking so very lovely! I grew a really interesting tomato this year, the Thai Pink Egg (http://bit.ly/1wWebEt) – I think it would probably dry and store really well! What do you think?


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Yes, I saw the picture of them at your blog…they looked very pretty. It’s hard to see the size from the photo, but if they’re a cherry type they’d dry well….if a little bigger, they’d just take longer. When I’m drying mine, I cut them in half lengthwise and sprinkle a pinch of salt on the cut surfaces…that helps to draw out the liquid, and if you’re using them for nibbles, makes them taste better. When I dried some without they were so bland! Of course if you’re using them in cooking, it doesn’t matter.


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